Child Advocates Push for CAPTA Reauthorization

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The need for more interstate cooperation in child abuse cases was one issue highlighted today as six child abuse prevention advocates testified before a House committee about the need to reauthorize and improve the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. The act , which expired at the end of fiscal 2008, is the primary source of federal money to fight child abuse.

Speaking at a hearing of the House Committee on Education and Labor on “Preventing Child Abuse and Improving Responses to Families in Crisis,” former Children’s Bureau associate commissioner Carol Wilson Spigner said that “if the child, the location of the event and the perpetrator are not in the same jurisdiction, cases are likely to fall through the cracks.”

She said interstate referrals could help to solve the problems.

Caren Kaplan, director of child protection reform at the American Humane Association, called for national implementation of what is known in the child abuse field as “differential response,” which is essentially fitting the services needed in an abuse case to the severity of the assault.

She said that many abuse victims who live in jurisdictions that do not practice the method received no post-investigative services at all. Twenty states now use the differential response method.

All six who testified called for more federal involvement and support for child abuse prevention initiatives.

In an interview after the Wilson Spigner said it is too early to tell what kind of legislation Congress will draft.

“We don’t know yet. We had six people with complementing ideas and some unique ideas,” said Wilson Spigner, who is currently a social policy professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “I think [Congress] understands CAPTA. I think now they’re in the process of capturing information on individual issues so they can sort this process.”

Others testifying were: Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence executive director Sandra Oliva ;Rodney Hammond, director of the division of violence prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Theresa M. Smith, executive director at a local Children’s Advocacy Center in Harrisburg, Pa.; and Rob Sawyer, former Child and Family Services director in Olmsted County, Minn.

When Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), one of seven committee members including chairwoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) who attended today’s hearing asked Oliva what happens to treatment centers that run out of funding, the Hempstead, N.Y.-based director replied that her program does not give up.

“More and more shelters are unable to meet the needs. We get very creative. We have used motels with very short stays, we have transported [victims] all over the country. We have scrambled,” Oliva said. “And sometimes people just give up. That’s why it’s very important to receive the resources we need.”