Protect and Provide for Maltreated Children

2021 Blueprint of Federal Social Policy Priorities: Recommendations to the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress


More than 673,000 children experienced maltreatment in the form of abuse or neglect in 2018 (Children’s Defense Fund, 2020). Children exposed to the trauma of abuse or neglect can suffer profound lifelong consequences. Research has directly linked childhood trauma to depression, anxiety, impulse control issues, greater likelihood of substance use and risky behaviors, increased susceptibility to heart disease and cancer and more. Trauma can also impact children on a biological level, delaying neural development, hindering the ability to manage stress (Children’s Defense Fund, 2020). It is essential that children who experience trauma as a result of child abuse, neglect, and other acts of violence receive proper support and services.

Over 435,000 children were in foster care in 2018 (Children’s Defense Fund, 2020). A high percentage are drawn into the foster system due to parental substance use (including opioids). Black children are overrepresented in foster care. In 20 states, the percent of the foster care population that is Black is two or more times the percent of the overall child population that is Black Although more than 90 percent of children exit foster care to a permanent family—either by returning home to their family, being adopted, placed into guardianship or otherwise living with relatives—many foster children “aged out” of foster care without being connected to a permanent family in 2018 (Children’s Defense Fund, 2020).

NASW calls on national leaders to:

  • Reauthorize and increase funding for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Provide $270 million in state CAPTA grants and provide $270 million for the Community Based Child Abuse Prevention (CB-CAP) programs.
  • Expand Title IV-E waivers and research demonstration projects to promote continuous improvement of child welfare services.
  • Invest in hybrid income assistance and service programs that address the connection between poverty and child neglect.
  • Oppose discrimination against LGBTQ applicants in the recruitment of foster and adoptive parents.
  • Reject Medicaid block grants and instead de-link foster care funding from the 1996 Title IV-E Foster Care eligibility standard.
  • Implement program guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act to expand access of services for families post reunification and Family Unification Program vouchers for children, youth, and families from the foster care system.
  • Extend foster care to age 21 in all states.
  • Protect LGBTQ foster youth from discrimination and conversion therapy.