• July/August 2001
  • Vol. 2, No. 4

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HHS Assistant Secretary Testifies Before Congress on CAPTA

Preventing child maltreatment and helping troubled families requires a comprehensive, coordinated approach by the Federal government, States, and communities—that was the key message delivered by Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, to a House subcommittee on August 2.

Dr. Horn was the lead witness at the House Committee on Education and the Workforce's Subcommittee on Select Education. The hearing was held to discuss the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Dr. Horn also discussed two other key pieces of Federal legislation concerned with the safety and permanency of children and families: the Adoption Opportunities Act, and the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act.

President Bush's proposed 2002 budget provides for a 5-year reauthorization of CAPTA. "Major changes to the legislation are not necessary," Horn said, noting "That is not to say that we have solved issues of abuse, neglect, and abandonment." He advocated for a comprehensive approach to addressing child maltreatment and discussed several other initiatives proposed in President Bush's budget aimed at preventing child abuse and strengthening families:

  • Increase funds for the Safe and Stable Families program by $200 million
  • Fund new programs for mentoring children of prisoners
  • Fund initiatives strengthening fatherhood and marriage
  • Fund parenting education and maternity group homes for young mothers.

Horn summarized the changes made by the 1996 reauthorization of CAPTA, including streamlining of the Basic State Grant program, creation of Citizen Review Panels to examine Child Protective Services policies and procedures, and consolidation of several programs into a new Community-Based Family Resource and Support grants program. He also explained other components of CAPTA, such as the Children's Justice Act, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, research and demonstration grants, and the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. The Clearinghouse is one of the sponsoring organizations of the Children's Bureau Express.

In testifying about the Adoption Opportunities program, Horn emphasized the deep commitment by the Administration to promote the timely adoption of children in foster care who are unable to return home. He noted that the most recent grants awarded under this program, which stressed the importance of evaluation, revealed that recruiting relatives and supporting kinship adoption can produce favorable outcomes for children. Horn also spoke in support of the extension of the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act, a program that funds agencies in 18 States and the District of Columbia for services to children and families affected by HIV/AIDS and drugs.

"President Bush, Secretary Thompson and I are committed to helping families in crisis and to protecting children from abuse and neglect," affirmed Horn. "I look forward to working with the Congress to pass legislation reauthorizing these statutes and funding the President's new initiatives, so that we may further efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect and respond to it effectively when it occurs; prevent the abandonment of children affected by HIV or substance abuse; and promote the adoption of children in foster care who need loving permanent families."

Horn's testimony was followed by a panel of witnesses that included:

  • Dr. Richard J. Gelles, University of Pennsylvania
  • Mr. Patrick Fagan, Heritage Foundation
  • Mr. Charles Wilson, Children's Hospital and Health Center, San Diego
  • Ms. Deborah Strong, Prevent Child Abuse Michigan

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), chair of the Subcommittee on Select Education, announced that additional hearings on CAPTA may be expected in the House. Congress is in summer recess until September 4.

The complete written statements of Horn and the other witnesses at the CAPTA hearing are available online at: http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings/107th/sed/capta8201/wl80201.htm

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