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Legislation Would Bolster Efforts by Child Protective Services and Non-Profits to Help Families Under Stress During Pandemic

Washington, D.C. – As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, families are under stress in ways that can increase the risk of child abuse or neglect. Meanwhile, stay-at-home orders mean that children who are at risk of abuse are separated from mandatory reporters, such as teachers, at the same time that local child protective services and non-profits that prevent child abuse are facing new challenges. These challenges include the risk posed by conducting home visits and the expenses involved with implementing new technology to administer virtual visits. To help support at-risk families and keep children safe, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), along with seven Democratic colleagues, introduced the Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act, which would provide $500 million in emergency funds for local child protective services and $1 billion for community-based child abuse prevention programs. U.S. Representative Kim Schrier (D-WA-8) introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused a public health crisis and economic downturn, which has put families under significant stress. We know from past experiences that this type of stress can result in an uptick in child abuse and neglect. I am pleased that the American Rescue Plan includes funding that I sought to help prevent child abuse. However, we must do more to ensure that our children are safe from harm during this national crisis. I introduced the Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act, with my colleague Representative Schrier, to provide additional funding and support to caseworkers who investigate abuse and neglect, and strengthen the systems in place to support families and prevent abuse from occurring in the first place,” said Senator Casey.

“We have seen a worrying increase in reports of domestic violence and child abuse during this pandemic. With more people at home together during this pandemic, and with families under more stress than ever, children are at higher risk of abuse. Too often we react to child abuse after the fact. As a pediatrician, I want to do everything I can to ensure we prevent child abuse before it happens, which this funding will help with,” said Representative Schrier, M.D. “That is why I’m proud to work with Senator Casey to get this important funding into the American Rescue Plan to make sure families and states have support to prevent child abuse and neglect, including for children affected by the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act would strengthen systems put in place by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). CAPTA provides funding to states to improve child protective services and strengthens community-based organizations that work to prevent child abuse and neglect before it happens by providing support to at-risk families. Senator Casey secured $350 million in emergency funding for child abuse prevention and treatment in the American Rescue Plan, which was recently signed into law by President Biden. Senator Casey is a longtime supporter of policies to protect America’s children. Previously, he introduced the Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid Act (SPEAK Up Act), and has also advocated for significant, long-term investment in CAPTA as part of his Five Freedoms for America’s Children agenda.

Senators cosponsoring the Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act include Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

Read the Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act here.