The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is the key legislation used to address the issue of child abuse and neglect. CAPTA is known for providing Federal funding to States in support of prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment. In addition to state funding, CAPTA provides grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations for demonstrations and projects in order to spread the word of child abuse.
CAPTA is responsible for identifying the Federal Government’s role in supporting research, evaluation, technical assistance, and data collection activities. In addition CAPTA also establishes the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect and mandates Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Each State has its own definitions of child abuse and neglect based on minimum standards set by Federal law. Federal legislation provides a foundation for States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. CAPTA defines child abuse and neglect as:
- Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or
- An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
Within the minimum standards set by CAPTA, each State is responsible for providing its own definitions of child abuse and neglect. On the state level, most states recognize four major types of maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological maltreatment.
Through the enactment of CAPTA our nation has been able to see statewide improvement in average response time between maltreatment report and investigation, and a decrease in the percentage of children with substantiated reports of maltreatment who have a repeated substantiated report of maltreatment within 6 months.
Note: All information found here was found at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Child Maltreatment 2007 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2009).