The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was originally enacted in 1974. CAPTA has been amended several times and was last reauthorized in 2010. While that reauthorization expired in 2015, Congress has continued to fund CAPTA programs without reauthorization. The House recently passed the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (Stronger CAPTA). The Senate HELP Committee recently introduced their version of CAPTA and is expected to mark-up the bill in mid-December. While the Senate bill currently includes the attorney or court appointed special advocate as GAL provision, it does not contain many of the positive House-passed elements of CAPTA. If CAPTA passes the Senate, the two chambers will have to come together on a bill they can both agree to for passage.
CAPTA authorizes formula grant funding to states to improve their child protective services, and funding to states for support of community-based activities to prevent child abuse and neglect. It also authorizes competitively awarded funds to support research, technical assistance and demonstration projects related to prevention, assessment, and treatment of child abuse and neglect.
Key Court-Appointed Special Advocate Provision in CAPTA
Since 1996, CAPTA has required states applying for funding under the Act to submit an assurance in the form of a certification by the governor. The state must assure that it:
“has in effect and is enforcing a state law, or has in effect and is operating a statewide program, relating to child abuse and neglect that includes […] provisions and procedures requiring that in every case involving a victim of child abuse or neglect which results in a judicial proceeding, a guardian ad litem, who has received training appropriate to the role, including training in early childhood, child, and adolescent development, and who may be an attorney or a court appointed special advocate who has received training appropriate to that role (or both), shall be appointed to represent the child in such proceedings.”
National CASA/GAL’s Stance on Child Representation
Children who have been abused or neglected are among the most vulnerable populations in the United States. To improve outcomes for these children and their families, the National CASA Association supports court systems that include CASA/GAL volunteers and attorneys operating in accordance with each state’s laws.
Strong, cohesive partnerships with all professionals and service providers in the courtroom are essential to ensuring each child’s safety, timely permanency, and well-being. America’s most vulnerable children deserve comprehensive representation and all the resources possible to help them heal and thrive.
Why the CAPTA Provision Matters
- More than half of states allow the CASA/GAL volunteer to serve in the role of GAL to meet compliance with CAPTA. Tens of thousands of children are being served by our volunteers in those states.
- In many of the states in which CASA/GAL programs serve the most children and volunteers have GAL status.
- If CAPTA were to change such that it did not allow the GAL to be a court-appointed special advocate volunteer, it may result in programs’ losing their standing to serve children in their current capacity.
To maintain our current level of service to children, it is imperative that the provision allowing the CAPTA GAL to be either an attorney or a court-appointed special advocate be retained.
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