April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month, filled with opportunities for all of us to learn more about how we can work together to prevent abuse from occurring and keep all kids in our communities healthy and safe. The effort is one that will take input and effort from all of us: trusted adults, parents, teachers, business leaders and legislators.
On March 16th, the United States House of Representatives passed an important update and expansion of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) by 345-73. The Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act seeks to strengthen our ability to prevent and respond to child maltreatment in various ways:
Primary Prevention Efforts
Child sexual abuse and maltreatment more broadly are public health epidemics; the best solution is always preventing the experience in the first place. To this end, the bill mandates interdisciplinary and longitudinal research to better understand how to prevent abuse from happening.
Data Collection and Sharing
Professionals of all types working on issues of child safety have long been hindered by data collection practices that differ between states and a lack of sharing between them. The bill requires the US Department of Health and Human Services to set up a national database to facilitate the sharing of data.
Addressing Child Sexual Abuse
The bill requires that each State have a task force to research systemic child sexual abuse and make recommendations for addressing them within the State. Here in Maryland, this will help us prevent the kinds of sexual abuse that continues to come to light from within institutions.
Funding the Efforts
While some past legislation relating to child sexual abuse mandated prevention trainings for certain adults without also supplying funding, the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act authorizes $270 million to go toward abuse prevention efforts, and another $270 million to support research and support child protection agencies in identifying and implementing more effective practices.
Seeing this bill head out of the House and to the Senate with such strong support is encouraging and more important than ever as the COVID19 pandemic decreases and children return to large group settings. There is good reason to expect an increase in reports of abuse as children come out of isolated settings and back into contact with broader networks of adults and mandated reporters. In Maryland, it is those connections in a child’s life that historically lead to the majority of reports of suspected abuse.
No More Stolen Childhoods continues to work with our partners across the state to support efforts that raise awareness and prevent abuse. We will be offering virtual sessions of Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children abuse prevention training, posting blogs with guidance to help keep your kids safe online, and sharing weekly tips for parents on social media. Visit the Child Abuse Prevention Month page on our website to learn more.
We invite you to join us and spread awareness of Child Abuse Prevention Month in your own network. This is how we collectively turn the tide on child sexual abuse and build safer, healthier communities for all.