Sen. Udall Introduces Bicameral Legislation to Address the Lack of Funding for Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention in Indian Country

Published May 12, 2019

Bill with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva would provide Tribes with resources to combat child abuse and keep Native children safe

WASHINGTON —U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) in introducing the American Indian and Alaska Native Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (AI/AN CAPTA), legislation that would amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to provide Tribal nations with resources to combat child abuse and neglect.

“When it comes to preventing child abuse and neglect, one thing is very clear: Native children are falling through the cracks,” said Udall. “Fulfilling the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Country means improving access to prevention resources for Tribal communities. This critical legislation would help keep Native children safe by studying culturally-relevant prevention strategies, and improving Tribal access to federal child abuse prevention resources.”

As the primary federal law addressing child abuse and neglect, CAPTA has been crucial in protecting children in the United States. However, it has not gone far enough to address the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native children. Though CAPTA contains language regarding Tribal eligibility for discretionary grants and emphasizes American Indian and Alaska Native child maltreatment issues, Tribal nations rarely receive federal CAPTA program or research grants to implement, expand, and document culturally-tailored best practices in child welfare programing.

AI/AN CAPTA fills this gap by amending CAPTA to require Tribal nations be included in the equitable distribution criteria for allocating CAPTA federal funding. It also increases the Tribal set-aside for funding from one percent to five percent after overall CAPTA funding increases — bolstering community funding available for child abuse and neglect prevention efforts and helping to address current limitations in the development of innovative child abuse and neglect prevention program models in Tribal communities. AI/AN CAPTA also requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in consultation with Tribes, to identify and report on child abuse and neglect prevention best-practices efforts in Tribal communities.

In addition to Warren and Udall, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

The legislation is also supported by the National Congress of American Indians, the Child Welfare League of America, and the National Child Abuse Coalition.

“The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) strongly advocates for protecting American Indian and Alaska Native children, who represent the future of their tribal nations. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act has long overlooked Indian Country and the specific needs of its young people. The American Indian and Alaska Native Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act is a strong step in the right direction to correct course by documenting and sharing effective strategies across tribal nations and increasing tribal access to prevention resources,” Jefferson Keel, President, National Congress of American Indians.

“CWLA strongly supports the AI/AN CAPTA, which would direct more resources to the prevention of child abuse among American Indian and Alaska Native children and families, and would also obtain crucial information about many dimensions of this problem.  Not enough is known either about the nature and extent of child abuse among this population nor about the culturally specific prevention services or approaches that hold promise to reduce child abuse and neglect for these children and ensure they are safe and can reach their full potential,”  Christine James-Brown, President & CEO, Child Welfare League of America.

The full text of the legislation is available here.

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