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House passes sweeping child abuse and neglect prevention bill

Capitol Breach Threat
Posted at 9:48 AM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 09:53:09-04

The U.S. House passed a sweeping bill Tuesday that aims to help states address the rise in child abuse and neglect.

The Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, or H.R.485, cleared the House by a 345-73 vote and will now move on to the Senate for consideration.

The bill, which was introduced by Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott in January, will provide funding to build networks of prevention services designed to strengthen families and to improve the quality of child protective services, according to the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Specifically, the committee says the bill would authorize $270 million for the expansion of prevention services to reach more than 3 million children each year, and another $270 million to foster new research and support state child protective services agencies.

The bill would also establish uniform standards for counting child fatalities and near fatalities related to child maltreatment, as well as create an electronic system that allows states to share data from their child abuse and neglect registries with other states.

The legislation would also seek to address racial bias across the child welfare system, support the development of strategies to reduce rate of abuse related to a parent’s substance use, and educate welfare professionals on practices that help prevent child abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse.

A similar bill was passed in the House last year, but it failed to get a vote in the Senate, which was controlled by the Republicans at the time. Now that Democrats hold the majority in each chamber of Congress, Scott told CNN that he’s confident the legislation will be brought up for a vote and he believes it has “overwhelming support.”

During the COVID-19 crisis, experts fear child abuse and neglect victims are being treated at lower rates. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says during the pandemic, the total number of emergency room visits related to child abuse and neglect decreased, but the percentage of such visits resulting in hospitalization increased, compared with 2019.

"The pandemic has affected health care–seeking patterns for child abuse and neglect, raising concerns that victims might not have received care and that severity of injuries remained stable or worsened," wrote the CDC. "Implementation of strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect is important, particularly during public health emergencies."