Underwood’s Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Child Abuse Protections Passes the House

March 17, 2021
Press Release
Underwood’s legislation would help ensure successful adoptions for children whose parents have suffered from substance use disorder

WASHINGTON— Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14)’s bipartisan legislation to strengthen child abuse protections passed the House of Representatives as a part of the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment (Stronger CAPTA) Act. The Stronger CAPTA Act would help states address the recent rise in child abuse and neglect by providing strategic funding to build networks of prevention services designed to strengthen families and to improve the quality of child protective services. 

The bill includes Underwood’s bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1713) introduced with Rep. Lloyd Smucker (PA-11) to require a study that examines the impact of parental substance use on adoption outcomes. This research is needed to help develop guidance for child welfare agencies on best practices for ensuring successful adoptions for children whose parents have suffered from substance use disorder. 

“Each year, thousands of children enter the foster care system from homes with parents suffering from substance use disorder. Despite the growing prevalence of parental substance use disorder as a leading factor in child abuse and neglect, research studying its impact on adoption outcomes remains limited,” said Underwood. “My bipartisan legislation looks out for foster youth by allowing states to track their outcomes and ensure we have the information we need to make informed policy decisions to best serve them and set them up for success. I’m pleased to join Rep. Smucker in leading this legislation in the House.” 

The Stronger CAPTA Act will authorize $270 million for the expansion of prevention services to reach over 3 million children annually and another $270 million to foster new research and support state child protective services agencies to expand services to meet increased demand without sacrificing quality. 

Additionally, the Stronger CAPTA Act would: 

  • Strengthen and expand intrastate coordination among agencies serving vulnerable families at risk of child abuse and neglect to ensure such families have access to physical and mental health services, domestic violence prevention programs, disability supports, and substance use treatment when necessary; 
  • Educate child welfare professionals and paraprofessionals on practices and strategies that effectively treat and prevent child abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse;  
  • Improve accessibility to the child welfare system so all families can access prevention services; and 
  • Provide funding for research and technical assistance activities aimed at enhancing providers’ and administrators’ knowledge of effective child abuse and neglect prevention and treatment strategies.