What the The Child Abuse and Neglect Enforcement Act (CANEA) Does

The following information has been provided by the office of Rep. Susan Molinari (R-NY). At the time this document was prepared for this web site (April 22) the legislation had no bill number, as it had not yet been introduced. Rep. Molinari’s office has said that the bill will be introduced on April 23, 1997.

The Child Abuse and Neglect Enforcement Act (CANEA)

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 2,000 children die each year of abuse and neglect. In 1994, there were 992,617 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect. Despite several federal initiatives, particularly CAPTA, the Child Abuse Prevention Act of 1991, incidents of child abuse and neglect are still tragically high.

We have seen it, all too many news reports that the tragedy of abuse crosses all social, economic and geographic lines. And now our urban centers are confronting another increasing tragedy — use of illegal drugs by pregnant mothers. In New York City, for instance, according to the 1994 Child Fatality Review Panel, a full 25 percent of the child fatality cases reviewed by the Panel occurred among children exposed to drugs while still in the womb.

While CAPTA as been an effective social services tool to help prevent child abuse, it is clear that enforcement mechanisms for dealing with child abuse need to be reformed and beefed-up.

The Federal government’s proper role is to assist states and cities in their efforts without micro-managing the local response, CANEA offers common-sense solutions to help local authorities and social service agencies deal with child abuse, including: Paperwork relief for social workers who spend too much time filling out forms and not enough helping children; Expanded Child Advocacy Centers for more accurate questioning of alleged victims; making newborn drug testing a condition for receiving the Substance Abuse Block Grant to determine if the mother was using drugs while pregnant; and providing for a system to allow state child protective agencies access to crucial information such as prior criminal convictions. In addition, CANEA funds these and other local enforcement programs by amending the 1995 Local Law Enforcement Grant and increasing the amount available from the Crime Victims Fund, a non-appropriated source of money the courts get from judicial fines and criminals’ asset seizures.

CANEA will provide helpful tools — common-sense reforms for social service agencies and prosecutors to use when it suits the best interest of the child through the following initiatives:

Reducing Paperwork

As we have seen in the past, the federal government often imposes burdensome and unnecessary regulatory requirements on local governments. It is important for Congress to determine exactly what is required of these agencies to help get more social workers out from behind a desk and out helping children. Rep. Jim Greenwood, himself a former social worker, spent at least one full day per week 20 percent of his work week — doing nothing but filling out forms. CANEA will direct GAO to study the paperwork required of local agencies in cases of child abuse, foster care and adoption. Based on the final report, HHS will be required to make specific recommendations to eliminate the unnecessary layers of paper-work

More Child Advocacy Centers

According to the New York State Commission on Investigation, multi-disciplinary teams are the most effective way of interviewing possible child abuse victims. This provision does not create an additional series of questioning for the child, but instead confines all questioning to one child-friendly location. Last year, Congress continued to recognize the importance of these centers by appropriating $2.5 million. Increasing this funding will mean increasing the seed money that states and localities have to open these centers.

Reforming the Victims of Crime Act of 1984

In 1984, Congress created a fund dedicated to compensating victims of crime solely from the seized assets of criminals and criminal fines. No appropriated money goes to this fund, but right now it has reached nearly $530 million. While money there is available for victims of child abuse, right now that amount is capped at $10 million, which was the 1984 level. Because incidents of child abuse have doubled since then, increasing that cap to $20 million is appropriate.

Improving access to all crucial information

A major problem facing child protective services is that they lack the ability to maintain current information about child abusers as they move from state to state, or even within the same state. It’s ironic that today children use computers to communicate with people all over the world, but those protecting our children don’t have access to similar technology.

Last year, Congress provided $50 million to states for upgrading their criminal background check systems. This amount is significant, but meaningless unless each state can take advantage of the information on their system. CANEA will direct states to put in place a system so child protective service agencies have access, through designated law enforcement agencies, to all criminal convictions from within the state and from other states. Those states that do not create such a system will be denied a percentage of their Byrne Grant that provides discretionary money to state and local government.

Amending The Local Law Enforcement Block Grant

CANEA will permit another use of the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant by including child abuse and enforcement as one of the stated purposes of the block grant. This grant program sends money directly to localities so they can decide the best way to prevent crime in their communities, and last year was funded by Congress at $571 million.

Mandatory toxicology tests for all newborns

This provision provides states the opportunity to use the Substance Abuse Block Grant to test all newborns for in utero drug exposure. States should be given the flexibility to utilize these funds to protect the health of its citizens. Results from a positive toxicology test would not require that the child be removed from the mother’s care, but would alert Child Protective Services of the potential problem and give them the opportunity to contact the mother and monitor the family’s environment. Hospitals will be able to test newborns for all drugs not prescribed by a physician. The health-care provider would be required to contact Child Protective Services and inform them that the mother was using drugs while pregnant and may be addicted. At a minimum, Child Protective Services would then be on notice about the mother and be able to monitor the family.

According to the New York State Commission on Investigation, in New York City between 1990-1994, 25 percent of all the child fatalities occurred among children who were exposed to drugs while still in the womb. Mothers who take illegal drugs while pregnant may need help caring for their child. While not mandating removal, this behavior should be a red flag for local Child Protective Services to begin an investigation. Congressman Tom Bliley introduced a bill that addressed infant drug testing in 1990, but it never reached the floor.

Camp-Kennelly Legislation

While not part of this package, legislation introduced by Congressman Dave Camp and Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly reforms the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. The original bill sought to move children from foster care and into adoptive homes, and while it has been partially successful in moving foster children into new homes, some problems have arisen with adoption and foster care concerning safety of these children. Dave Camp’s bill addresses these concerns by providing mechanisms to insure that the foremost concern is providing a child with a safe and loving home.

For more information contact:
Eugene Patrone or
Jennifer Prazmark
Office of Congresswoman Molinari
(202) 225-3371
(202) 226-1272 fax

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