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House Approves Keeping Children and Families Safe Act

On April 23, the House approved, 411-5, the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act (H.R. 3839). The bill, sponsored by Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), would reauthorize several child and spousal abuse prevention programs, including the Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Act (CAPTA), the Adoption Opportunities Act, the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act, and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). The measure was considered under suspension of the rules, an expedited floor procedure that limits debate, prohibits amendments, and requires a two-thirds majority for approval.

H.R. 3839 would authorize $285 million in FY2003-FY2007. Of that amount, $200 million would be authorized for CAPTA, $40 million for the Adoption Opportunities Act, and $45 million for the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act. The bill would extend the authorization for the FVPSA through FY2007. The FVPSA was reauthorized through FY2005 under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (P.L. 106-386) in 2000.

Additionally, H.R. 3839 would expand the Adoption Opportunities Act to include infants and young children who are disabled or born with life-threatening conditions and would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to study adoption outcomes and the factors affecting these outcomes. The Secretary also would be required to conduct a study on the number of abandoned infants and young children.

During subcommittee action, the bill was amended to require health care providers involved in the delivery of an infant exposed to drugs or alcohol to notify child protective services. The amendment states that such notification would not “constitute a report of the occurrence of child abuse” and would not “result in prosecution of the mother for investigation of any illegal or legal substance while pregnant.” The amendment also would require a social services caseworker to investigate the situation and develop a “plan to address the needs of the infant and mother” as well as procedures for the provision of appropriate services.

Another subcommittee amendment would require child protective services to notify individuals when they were being investigated for a complaint of child abuse or neglect.

During floor debate, Rep. Hoekstra thanked the members “for their hard work and efforts in developing this bipartisan legislation,” and said that it is “timely that we are considering this bill today since April is designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month.”

Del. Donna Christensen (D-VI) also spoke in support of H.R. 3839, saying it “will protect the most vulnerable members of our communities, our children and abused women.”

In his speech, Rep. Greenwood noted that “if we get this all the way through the Senate and signed by the President, we will see a significant reduction in child abuse and we will be glad for the effort.”

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