Immediate challenges due to COVID-19 pandemic
- Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there’s growing concern about elevated risk for child maltreatment. We have the public will, knowledge and evidence-based programs needed to strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment, but resource allocation is insufficient.
- Family stress leads to increased risk of child abuse and neglect and the pandemic is creating significant new stress for families. With so many children sequestered at home, and with increasing unemployment, growing isolation, new health concerns, separation from school and community activities, children are increasingly vulnerable to child abuse and neglect.
- The very professionals who we rely on to report suspected abuse and neglect — teachers, child care workers, medical professionals – are no longer seeing children on a regular basis. A number of state officials have reported a sharp decline in reports to child abuse hotlines.
- Struggling families need mental health services, parental support, family resource centers, and other services to cope with their struggles and mitigate harm to children. These services have long been under-funded and unable to meet community needs. With the spread of COVID-19, there is widespread urgency for increased funding to meet the growing demand for family supports that help prevent child abuse and neglect
- Agencies are struggling to maintain adequate staffing which in turn leads to diminished capacity to screen and investigate reports of maltreatment.
- Investing in programs that strengthen and support families is more important now than ever, not only to address the current crisis before us but to prepare for increased demands that will face our child welfare system in the wake of this epidemic.
What’s needed to help struggling families and prevent child abuse and neglect:
- Increase funding to CAPTA Title II Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CB-CAP) grants by $1 billion. This critical funding will help state and local organizations provide support to reduce family stress and prevent further harm to children during this pandemic. Services could include mental health services, parental supports, family resource centers, and other services that help families and mitigate harm to children.
- Increase funding to CAPTA Title I by $500 million to ensue state and local child protection agencies can adapt to the new circumstances while continuing to respond quickly to reports of child abuse an neglect. Child protection workers have urgent new needs for greater information technology tools and training, personal protective equipment to be safe from contagion, and other training and support.
- Increase the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for the Title IV-E Prevention Program so that it is in line with the overall enhanced FMAP increase for other child welfare services. This is important to avoid widening the gap between funding for prevention services and traditional foster care. The Family First Prevention Services Act made important reforms to eliminate federal disincentives for family preservation and stabilization services, particularly when the need for these services is in high demand.