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President’s column

A call for section members to remain fervently cognizant of our commitment to translate our research and practice endeavors in ways that increase awareness and support of policies that benefit vulnerable children and families at the local, state and federal levels.

By Jennie Noll

Jennie NollIt’s that time of the year again where everything seems to be changing—seasons, temperature, foliage, holidays, daylight. Albeit thankful for the opportunity that comes with change, I find myself holding on to what is familiar. I keep walking out of the house without a coat or forgetting to wear heavier socks so that my feet won’t turn into ice cubes (the way they do every year from October 31 through May 15) and expecting that the early evening sunlight will be bright enough to see the hiking trail after work. This all takes some adjusting. After all, change can be hard. In keeping with the consistent theme of my columns over the past year, I’m reminding all of us to remain fervently cognizant of the collective “change” that we in this section (and in the division) are called to embrace—the commitment to increase our awareness and support of policies that benefit vulnerable children and families. Further, to translate our research and practice endeavors in ways that champion these policy efforts at the local, state and federal levels.

First, by way of one tangible example of how we are advocating for policy change, Div. 37 sponsored a briefing on preventing human trafficking on Nov. 2, 2017 in the Rayburn House Office building in Washington, D.C. Organized in partnership with the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus, this event was also sponsored by Penn State’s Center for Healthy Children, the Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, the Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues, the National Prevention Science Coalition, and the Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice. Co-chair of the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus, Representative Ted Poe, kicked off the event with a fiery speech about preventing victimization. Subsequently, Jennifer Woolard of Georgetown University provided a welcome message and introduced the panel or speakers; Joan Reid of University of South Florida, St. Petersburg described a diverse range of risk factors for human trafficking; Jill McLeigh of the Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice explained how local strategy development could support primary prevention; and Hanni Stoklosa of HEAL Trafficking and Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston discussed strategies for secondary prevention, including ways that health care providers can intervene. This research panel was followed by Audrey Morrisey's personal story on how she became a victim of human trafficking, what could have been done to prevent her experience, and how she became associate director of My Life My Choice, which implements prevention groups with young girls. The briefing was well attended, including about 80 attendees, many of whom were staff from governmental offices. Special thanks and kudos are in order to Taylor Scott of the National Prevention Science Coalition for facilitating this briefing. Good work, Taylor.

Second, there are many existing acts of legislation that benefit maltreatment victims and those who are at risk of being maltreated.  Sustaining these acts will be essential to the continuance of vital programming. One key act is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, known as CAPTA, which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on Jan. 31, 1974 (P.L. 93- 247). The purpose of the act was to provide funding for the prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect. The act also created federal grant programs to states to support new prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution and treatment activities. The original law has been amended numerous times, including under Title VI, Subtitle F of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act Amendments of 1990 authorizing matching grants to state and local agencies for the prevention of child abuse. The CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010 was signed on Dec. 20, 2010 and increased resources related to adoption of children in foster care. In 2011, the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act revised required services for children in foster care, including requiring states to outline how they would address the monitoring and treatment of emotional trauma associated with maltreatment as well as placement in care. For over forty years, CAPTA has functioned as a mandate for resourcing states to ensure that abuse and neglect remains at the forefront of policymakers legislative activities. By fostering multi-sector approaches and partnerships, CAPTA resulted in a keen focus on reducing risk and enhancing child protection and abuse prevention.

The three main funding streams from CAPTA are state grants, discretionary grants for research and demonstration projects, and community-based grants to prevent child abuse and neglect. CAPTA discretionary funds support state efforts to improve their practices in preventing and treating child abuse and neglect. These funds support the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, the only federal data collection effort to annually determine the scope of child maltreatment. Funding also supports the National Office of Child Abuse and Neglect, the National Resource Center on Child Maltreatment, and the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect. The community-based grants support state efforts to develop, operate and expand a network of community-based, prevention-focused family support programs that coordinate resources among a range of existing public and private organizations.

Although CAPTA is proposed to be flat funded in the federal fiscal year 2018 budget, cuts to Medicare, the elimination of the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), and cuts to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) are indeed proposed. SSBG constitutes 11 percent of federal child welfare spending and TANF provides about 22 percent of federal child welfare spending. As a result, a full 33 percent of federal child welfare spending would be severely cut or eliminated. So, although CAPTA will be flat funded, programs currently supported by SSBG and TANF cuts will most certainly tap CAPTA mechanisms in order to be sustained.  CAPTA was scheduled to be up for reauthorization by Congress in 2017, but nothing has yet been proposed. This reauthorization will be essential to the continuance of prevention efforts and to ensuring that states receive adequate funding to maintain resources that will aid the child welfare system to care for our most vulnerable children. The lack of a fully funded reauthorization will have devastating consequences.

Finally, as always, you are encouraged reach out to your members in the House and Senate to voice support for reauthorization bills. Please also remain aware of when relevant legislation is being considered so that you can make your voice heard. As a means to stay informed about current legislative activity, don’t miss Angelique Day’s column as she outlines current and relevant policy levers of note for the field of child maltreatment. In this addition, Angelique outlines how the proposed cuts to Children’s Health Insurance Program  (CHIP) and Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) will impact vulnerable children. Thank you again, Angelique, for working hard to help keep us all informed.

Jennie