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June 18, 2019

ABA Makes Significant Progress on Child Welfare

Significant progress has been made recently regarding child welfare, legal representation, and efforts to curb child abuse and neglect now that Congress and the U.S. Children’s Bureau are moving to expand protection for children and their legal representation. A major victory was achieved on December 19, 2018, when the U.S. Children’s Bureau changed its policy to allow states to use federal Title IV-E funding for child and parent legal representation. This change will ensure higher quality legal representation for children who are candidates for foster care, children in foster care, or parents preparing and participating in all stages of a child welfare case.

In collaboration with the ABA Center on Children and the Law and the ABA Government Affairs Office, President Bob Carlson sent a letter to Secretary Alex M. Azar II to commend the Department of Health and Human Services for this recent policy change. As articulated in the letter, this new funding for attorneys will produce better outcomes for countless children, families, courts, and child welfare agencies throughout the country. To explain why high quality legal representation is critical for all parties in child welfare proceedings, the ABA created an Infographic on Legal Representation in Child Welfare Proceedings

Title IV-E funding supports state child welfare agencies to help children transition from out-of-home care to permanent homes or families. Previously, title IV-E agencies were prohibited from claiming title IV-E costs for legal services by attorneys representing children or parents, but the revised policy now allows states to match their invested funds in child and parent legal representation with federal support.

In addition to the work on Title IV-E, Congress is moving to reauthorize the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Representative Kim Schrier (D-WA) is the sponsor of the bipartisan Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (H.R.2480) introduced on May 2, 2019. The changes proposed would increase the preventive capacity of CAPTA by helping states build community-based service networks and would increase research and education on abuse and neglect prevention strategies. On May 20, 2019, the bill passed the House and now awaits action in the Senate.

If you would like to receive more information on Child Development and/or assist the ABA in advocating on it, please visit the Grassroots Action Center and register for the Grassroots Action Team here.