US Senate - CAPTA reathorization debate

Last Thursday we had the honor of presenting a briefing on the matter of the CAPTA reauthorization to staffers from several Senate offices. (We have chosen not to identify the specific offices for politically strategic reasons.)

CAPTA is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, a federal law that provides funding to the states if they meet certain standards relating to child abuse treatment and prevention. First passed in 1976, CAPTA has been due for reauthorization since 2015, and this spring both political parties are committed to getting that done.

Three weeks ago, a senior staff member from a Senate committee determined a briefing on the proposed changes to CAPTA could be helpful for himself and his colleagues, and he thought of us. So he asked ParentalRights.org and Home School Legal Defense Association to present to select, invitation-only Senate staffers a briefing on CAPTA.

We were happy to seize the opportunity to express our concerns with CAPTA and share our ideas for improving the law to help families.

During the hour-long briefing, ParentalRights.org president Jim Mason had no trouble answering every question with a first-hand account from his own experience as a litigator.

From his years defending home schooling families on behalf of HSLDA, Jim has seen all the tricks and hurdles child welfare agencies sometimes employ to override the rights and wishes of fit and loving parents.

While their base is limited to home schoolers, HSLDA has a history of representing families from the time a child investigator is on the doorstep all the way though court findings and even appeals, so Jim has seen hundreds of cases in his years there.

On the strength of Jim’s experience, we were able to present to those Senate offices many of the same concerns we have shared with you in this newsletter throughout the first half of this year, including:

  • CAPTA encourages states to set up child abuse registries with little or no due process. It is too easy to get on a list and far too hard to get one’s name removed.
  • Anonymous reporting leaves the child welfare system ripe for abuse by vindictive exes or other bad actors, who weaponize child welfare investigations for personal gain.
  • CAPTA lacks a standard of removal, allowing children to be removed without a warrant and without a showing of imminent harm.
  • CAPTA fails to require states to differentiate between poverty and neglect.

We also warned against the suggestion coming from other quarters to insert a mention of “child abuse pediatricians” in the bill.

In our experience, this newly licensed field is used disproportionately to harm healthy, loving families by providing unscientific evidence of abuse under a veneer of medical expertise. Recognizing the “specialty” in federal law would serve to legitimize their claims and increase the damage they can cause in court.

The briefing was well-received by staff members of some key Senators and opened a door for future contact with those offices.

While we cannot claim to know the future, we are hopeful this is a good start toward keeping the Senate from adopting the version of CAPTA that came out of the House. That version incorporates none of our fixes but would leave these harmful problems intact. Worse, it would triple the funding for the next five years.

And one thing worse than continuing decades of bad ideas is continuing decades of bad ideas at three times the current rate.

We were humbled and excited to get this invitation, to be the organization, in partnership with HSLDA, to represent the family side of the CAPTA equation for these key Senate offices. And we got that opportunity thanks to you.

It is thanks to your generous support, whether as a donor, a volunteer, or part of our broad Congress-calling army, that we have earned the reputation we have on Capitol Hill—a reputation as an important voice for families in the halls of Congress.

So let me just take this opportunity to say, “Thank you,” and to encourage you with this exciting development.

Together we will be heard, and we will make a positive difference for America’s families!

Sincerely,

Michael Ramey

Executive Director