WASHINGTON— Today, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced 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 help provide tribal nations with resources to combat child abuse and neglect.
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 specific language regarding tribal eligibility for discretionary grants and an emphasis on American Indian and Alaska Native child maltreatment issues, tribal nations rarely receive federal CAPTA grants, and research projects that focus specifically on unique tribal community issues are largely unfunded.
AI/AN CAPTA helps fill this gap by amending CAPTA to require that tribal nations be included in the equitable distribution criteria for allocating CAPTA federal funding. It also increases the dedicated tribal set-aside for funding to five percent (up from one 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 a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on child abuse and neglect prevention efforts in tribal communities that GAO would conduct in consultation with tribal nations.
“While CAPTA has helped protect millions of children across the country, much remains to be done for Native children both on and off the reservation,” said Representative Raúl M. Grijalva. “Our legislation focuses on the special needs of Indian Country while respecting tribal sovereignty, and ensures that more resources are available for tribes to do everything in their power to safeguard the well-being of their children.”
“Child abuse and neglect don’t have a place in our country, and its prevalence in Indian Country is unacceptable,” Senator Warren said. “My legislation would ensure that CAPTA protects Native children by dedicating additional funding to help prevent child abuse across tribal communities and getting better answers on how to best meet the needs of Native children.”
The legislation is supported by the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the Child Welfare League of America, and the National Child Abuse Coalition.
“The AI/AN CAPTA ensures that American Indian and Alaska Native tribal communities will have increased access to resources that can support the long proven, culturally-based child abuse and neglect prevention strategies that have kept Native children safe for many generations. The legislation also supports efforts to gather new information on child abuse and neglect prevention in Indian Country to help guide solutions to the challenges tribes face. We are so grateful for Senator’s Warren’s assistance in getting this much needed legislation introduced,” Sarah Kastelic, Executive Director, National Indian Child Welfare Association.
“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.
Senator Warren and Representative Grijalva have also been advocating for the inclusion of tribal nations and tribal organizations in the planning and execution of prevention programs, including suicide. In February 2019, Senator Warren and Representative Grijalva reintroduced a bipartisan bill to address the suicide crisis in Native communities, which they also introduced in September 2018. They also co-authored an op-ed for Indianz.com on the importance of empowering tribal communities in addressing the suicide crisis.
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