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Child and Family Advocates Unite for Congressional Briefing and Panel Discussion on Child Welfare Policy and Funding

Washington, D.C. – This week, child welfare advocates came together to uplift the urgent need for a federal child welfare policy that will actually enhance the safety and wellbeing of children. During a congressional briefing, panelists discussed the pressing issues related to mandated reporting and funding choices under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). 

The discussion shed light on how mandated reporting requirements under CAPTA do not effectively safeguard children, but instead overburden foster systems and divert resources away from children in dire need. The panel also addressed the significant number of families who become involved with the child welfare system for reasons related to poverty, emphasizing how providing crucial financial and community support to families keeps them together, and kids safer.

Shereen A. White, Director of Advocacy and Policy for Children’s Rights, served as moderator. Panelists included Angela Olivia Burton, Esq., Co-Convenor, Repeal CAPTA Coalition, Joyce McMillan, Founder and Executive Director of Just Making A Change for Families, David Kelly, JD MA, Co-founder and Co-director, Family Justice Group, and Jasmine Wali, MSW, Child Welfare Policy Consultant.

“Next year CAPTA will be 50 years old. We are long overdue in examining the true impact that this federal legislation has had on children and families and also the funding choices that came along with its enactment back in 1974—funding choices that still haunt us today.” – Shereen A. White.

In the 1960s, mandated reporting laws became the focal point of child welfare legislation. Since then, these laws have required select professionals—teachers, healthcare professionals, and law enforcement—to report and monitor families for any signs of child abuse or neglect. This has resulted in a child welfare system that is overwhelmed with millions of unsubstantiated claims that unnecessarily subject families, particularly families of color and those living in poverty, to Child Protective Services’ scrutiny rather than providing required resources or support.

“By funneling [children] into a system that leads to investigation and the invasion of the family home, we’re prosecuting poverty. We’re taking families through an entire court process that can last years because of something that we could easily have responded to with support or even simply leaving the family alone.” – Angela Olivia Burton.

“We all see the outcomes. We all see that children who are forced into the system do poorly. We quote the numbers of what’s happening: the likelihood of them going to prison, the likelihood of them graduating high school, the likelihood of being a teenage parent and having their own child in the system. The likelihood of being drug addicted, the likelihood of developing a mental illness. Yet, we survey families and put children into that system where the only thing they protect children from is success.” – Joyce McMillan

In addition to discussions on mandated reporting, the briefing also emphasized the need to shift CAPTA funding from Title I to Title II covering community-based child abuse prevention grants, a move that would demonstrate a collective commitment to forging a brighter and safer future for all children.

“The social work profession is at an inflection point right now—driven by a new generation of social workers, who are able to see that mandated reporting has historically harmed families and continues to harm families. The younger generation is always pushing the profession toward its ethical obligations, which is to support families and divest away from pushing families into systems that hurt them.” – Jasmine Wali

“This is the prime moment to reexamine CAPTA and realign the resources to support those things that we know truly help families, and divest or strip funding away from those things that resemble or include investigation and prosecution. This is one of the only federal sources of funding that actually can go to help support community-based resources and opportunities for families.” – David Kelly

The briefing was hosted by Children’s Rights, the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work & Policy (CRISP) and the Repeal CAPTA Coalition. 

Contact

Camilla Jenkins, Children’s Rights, cjenkins@childrensrights.org

Sarah Duggan, JMAC For Families, sduggan@jmacforfamilies.org

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ABOUT CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

Children’s Rights is a national advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of children living in or impacted by America’s child welfare, juvenile legal, immigration, education, and healthcare systems. We use civil rights impact litigation, advocacy and policy expertise, and public education to hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Our work centers on creating lasting systemic change that will advance the rights of children for generations. For more information, please visit childrensrights.org.

ABOUT JMAC FOR FAMILIES 

Just Making A Change for Families, better known as JMACforFamilies, is a nonprofit organization working to dismantle the family policing system while investing in community support that keeps families together. We are a team of impacted people, social workers, advocates, and organizers working towards the ultimate goal of abolition. JMACforFamilies works towards this goal through legislative advocacy, storytelling and narrative change, and programming for people who have been directly impacted by the family policing system. For more information, please visit jmacforfamilies.org