What is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2020
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Child abuse is an issue that has often faced resistance in its recognition as a legal and social issue. In 1974, the United State government drafted a piece of legislation that would address the issue in full. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act provides definitions of child abuse. The law also establishes a framework for financial assistance to individual states and agencies so that they may develop programs for the treatment and prevention of child abuse.

Content of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act provides a basic background of the issue derived from government research and statistics. The document then provides a structural outline highlighting the primary aims of the act: namely, child abuse treatment and prevention. Comprehensive definitions of the primary types of child abuse — physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect — are provided, with the understanding that each state may maintain its own definitions. The basic scope of the law encourages protection for any individuals under the age of 18 who face harmful risks from the actions of a caretaker. As such, the act is often used in family law cases.

Two significant United States government organizations resulted from the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: the Department of Health’s National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) and the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. The NCCAN is responsible for administering grants and funding and coordinating programs. The latter organization compiles research data and provides information and advice to the public regarding child abuse.

Funding for child abuse issues under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act covers several stated goals. Money is provided for abuse identification training for relevant public officials like educators and social workers, as well as treatment programs for children and caretakers impacted by the issue. Grants are also distributed for research opportunities into child abuse and its causes and effects. These financial aids are given by the American government to its individual state governments.

Since its inception, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act has undergone many changes. The 2003 Keeping Children and Families Safe Act version of the law resulted from a series of clauses and progressions of preceding laws, such as the Child Abuse Prevention, Adoption, and Family Services Act of 1988 and the Child Abuse Prevention Challenge Grants Reauthorization Act of 1989. Subsequent amendments in the 1990s like the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Amendments of 1992 added community programs, cultural sensitivity awareness, homeless family considerations, domestic violence recognition, abandoned children, and juvenile delinquency provisions to the law. In general, the Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Act reinforces rather than dictates state laws regarding child abuse issues.

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