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Statement for the Record on H.R. 764 "The Child Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Act" by Carol W. Williams
Associate Commissioner, The Children's Bureau
Administration on Children, Youth and Families
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime
May 12, 1999

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee,

I want to thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony regarding H.R. 764, the "Child Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Act", which includes a provision related to the funding set aside for the Children's Justice Act. We greatly appreciate the interest and leadership shown by the members of this Subcommittee in working to protect children from abuse and neglect.

We are proud that the Administration has been able to work in a bipartisan fashion with the Congress over the past several years to pass critical child protection and child welfare reform legislation, including the Adoption and Safe Families Act which makes clear that the safety and well-being of children must be the first consideration. We have also recognized that protecting children and assuring them a chance to grow up in safe, stable environments requires the coordinated efforts of child welfare agencies, law enforcement and the courts.

As you know, the Children's Justice Act (CJA) is authorized as part of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which is administered by the Children's Bureau within the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Children's Bureau is responsible for administering the major child abuse and neglect and child welfare programs, including the Social Security Act's title IV-B Child Welfare Services and Promoting Safe and Stable Families programs and title IV-E foster care, adoption assistance and Independent Living programs, as well as CAPTA and several other discretionary grant programs. One of our goals in administering the various authorities is to assist the states to use federal funds in a coordinated manner, so as to strengthen the systems for protecting and serving abused and neglected children and their families. In our administration of programs, we also work to coordinate with other federal agencies administering related programs, including the Department of Justice, and we encourage state child welfare agencies to collaborate with other state and local agencies and entities that play critical roles in protecting children. The CJA is an important tool in encouraging and leveraging such coordination at the state and local levels.

The CJA program was first authorized in 1987 for the purpose of developing, establishing and operating programs designed to improve the handling of child abuse cases, particularly child sexual abuse; to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of cases of abuse; to reduce trauma to child victims; and to make needed reforms in state laws, policies and procedures in order to provide comprehensive protection to children. Later the legislation was amended to address sexual exploitation, child maltreatment fatalities, and child maltreatment cases involving a potential combination of jurisdictions, such as interstate, federal-state, and state-tribal. The amendments also addressed the issues of prompt and successful resolution of civil and criminal court proceedings, enhancing the effectiveness of judicial and administrative action in child abuse cases, particularly child sexual exploitation cases, and enhancement of performance of court appointed attorneys and guardians ad litem for children. The statutory language in CAPTA outlines the purposes of the program and the eligibility requirements for states to receive grants. It also specifies that funds for the program are to come from the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, at the level specified by section 1404A of that Act. Since the creation of the CJA program, funds in the Crime Victims Fund have grown from $77 million to $362 million. Funding for the CJA is set at $10 million, with $8.5 million being administered by the Children's Bureau for grants to the states, and $1.5 million administered by the Department of Justice for grants to Indian tribes.

The major purposes of the CJA include improving the investigation, administrative and judicial handling and prosecution of child abuse and neglect; reducing the trauma experienced by child victims; and preventing child maltreatment fatalities. The program is designed to promote systems change and improvement in the arena of child protection. For this reason, one major requirement of the program is that a state multi-disciplinary task force, comprised of representatives from child protective services agencies, law enforcement, the courts, health and medical professionals, and others be established to review and make recommendations on the need for changes in state laws, policies, regulations, training procedures and other systemic factors affecting the protection of abused and neglected children. Among the more frequent types of activities states address using CJA funds are:

  • Promoting and funding interagency, multi-disciplinary training and cross-training, so that the various professionals involved in child abuse and neglect cases understand each other's work and learn to communicate effectively across specialties. Such training helps to ensure more comprehensive assessments, more complete investigations and court presentations, reduced trauma to child victims and more appropriate interventions applied in a more timely manner.
  • Establishing and providing ongoing training for child fatality review teams that help to identify cases of child maltreatment fatalities and prevent future fatalities.
  • Supporting the establishment and/or maintenance of Child Advocacy Centers, where child victims and their families can be interviewed, evaluated and treated by a multi-disciplinary team in a child-friendly setting, thereby reducing the risk of subjecting children to further trauma during the investigation child abuse.

I would like to highlight for you several specific examples of activities being carried out by the states with the support of CJA funds.

  • Florida has developed educational standards and a certification process for all non-medical personnel of child protection teams and sexual abuse treatment programs. Child fatality review teams have been established at the state and local levels, in order to review individual child deaths, gather data and utilize that information to design prevention efforts at the state and local levels.
  • Texas has used some of its CJA funds to establish the Telemedicine Project to enhance the quality of medical evaluations and consultation for child sexual abuse cases occurring in remote areas.
  • The Virginia CJA Task Force recently held two regional multi-disciplinary training conferences, focusing on investigation and prosecution of child maltreatment related fatalities and serious physical abuse. The target audience included law enforcement, child protective services workers, attorneys, school personnel and medical professionals.
  • New Jersey 's CJA Task Force accomplishments include four regional multi-disciplinary diagnostic facilities for sexual abuse and serious physical abuse cases, with a training component which routinely brings all the various professionals together, resulting in more effective handling and resolving of cases, reduced trauma to children due to fewer interviews and examinations by individual professionals, and more rapid response to the child's needs for treatment.
  • Georgia CJA funds assisted in the development and implementation of a comprehensive training program to strengthen the multi-disciplinary approach to cases and also provided funding of a Children's Advocacy Center serving four northwest Georgia counties.
  • Massachusetts funds several Family Advocacy Centers and a case tracking and review project, the goal of which is to enhance an already established multi-disciplinary case review program. Their statewide "Project Alliance" was established to provide consistent and coordinated information to school personnel (teachers, child protection teams) regarding their mandate to report suspected child abuse and neglect. On-site training and technical assistance is provided.

In closing, I would like to again emphasize the importance of strengthening and improving the systems of care for our children so that we can continually ensure their safety. The Children's Justice Act plays an important part in this ongoing and important work. I thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement for the record.

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