Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) 2003 Amendments

Summary of Provisions in House-Senate Conference Agreement, House Report 108-150
Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, Public Law 108-36

Title I: General Program

Basic State Grants: Eligibility Requirements


  • Notice to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of any significant change in activities which may differ from state grant application
  • Procedures (“including appropriate referrals” to child protective services (CPS)) to address needs of infants born “affected by illegal substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure,” with requirement that hospital notify CPS, with caveat that notification does not establish a definition under federal law of what constitutes child abuse, or require “prosecution for any illegal action;” and development of a plan of “safe care” for the infant
  • “Triage procedures” for referral of a child not at risk of imminent harm to preventive services
  • Disclosure of information to those in federal, state or local governmental agencies needing information to “carry out its responsibilities under law to protect children from abuse and neglect”
  • Appropriate training for guardians-ad-litem and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)
  • Provisions that caseworker, “at initial time of contact with individual subject to child abuse and neglect investigation,” must advise of the allegations made against the individual, consistent with protecting rights of the informant
  • Provisions to train CPS workers regarding legal duties to protect rights and safety of children and their families from time of initial contact at investigation through treatment
  • Provisions for improving training, retention and supervision of caseworkers
  • Procedures for criminal record checks for prospective foster and adoptive parents and other adults in the household
  • Provision for referral of a child under age 3, in a substantiated case of abuse or neglect, to early intervention services funded under IDEA Part C

Basic State Grants: Permitted Uses


  • Ongoing case monitoring
  • Case management of treatment services
  • Updating technology for reporting and tracking cases and to allow interstate and intrastate information exchange
  • Training to promote “collaboration with families;” regarding legal duties of caseworkers; and personal safety training for caseworkers
  • Improving quality and availability of caseworkers, and improvements in supervision, recruitment, and retention of caseworkers
  • Training mandated reporters
  • Developing information to improve public understanding of CPS, and the nature of reporting child maltreatment
  • Collaborations between agencies to provide prevention and treatment services and for referrals to address health, mental health, and development evaluations for abused and neglected children
  • Collaboration between CPS and juvenile justice system

Basic State Grants: Other

  • Open courts: Allows state flexibility to determine policies for open court proceedings in child abuse and neglect cases, “except that such policies shall, at a minimum, ensure the safety and well-being of the child, parents, and families”
  • Citizen Review Panels: Adds to panel responsibilities: 1) review of CPS “practices” as well as policies and procedures; 2) public comment on impact of CPS procedures and practices; and 3) recommendations to improve state and local CPS. Also, requires HHS to conduct a study of the effectiveness of citizen review panels, and report on citizen review panel activities



  • Training judicial, educational, child protection personnel, and CASAs
  • Training to enhance linkages between CPS and health care services to improve forensic diagnosis and health evaluations; and for innovative partnerships with creative approaches to funding for health evaluation needs of children who have been substantiated abused and neglected
  • Training CPS personnel in collaboration with families during investigation through treatment
  • Training CPS staff in legal duties
  • Training child welfare workers
  • Enabling child welfare agencies to coordinate services with health care, substance abuse, mental health and others
  • Cross-training CPS on domestic violence and substance abuse
  • Training to support services for disabled infants with life-threatening conditions

Innovative Programs


  • Promoting establishment of “safe, family-friendly physical environments for visitation and exchange” for court-ordered visitation between children and abusing parents, and for exchange of children for visits with noncustodial parents in domestic violence cases
  • Prevention and treatment services in cooperation with preschool, elementary and secondary schools
  • Development of risk and safety assessments
  • Strategies for training mandated reporters
  • Innovations in establishing a triage system for responding to reports of child abuse and neglect
  • Linkages between CPS and public health, mental health, and developmental services to assure diagnosis and treatment for abused and neglected children
  • Children’s hospitals and for model approaches to improve medical diagnosis and health evaluations for abused and neglected children


  • Mutual support and self-help programs but removes specific reference to “Parents Anonymous”



  • Longitudinal research
  • Research on effects of maltreatment on child development and identification of successful early intervention services
  • Research on “multidisciplinary, coordinated decision-making procedures”
  • National incidence study to include child maltreatment by reason of family structure, parental living arrangement, family income and size, work status, education attainment, grandparents as caregivers
  • Evaluation of best practices for achieving improvements in CPS
  • Effective approaches for collaboration between CPS and juvenile justice system
  • Analysis of redundancies and gaps in use of resources to prevent child abuse and neglect
  • Voluntary relinquishment to foster care of low-income children in need of health or mental health services

Requires HHS to publish proposed research priorities for public comment every two years (current law does not specify time period)

Technical Assistance


  • Replicating successful program models
  • Evaluating effective approaches to link CPS with health care, mental health and developmental services, for forensic diagnosis and health evaluation; and barriers to such linkages
  • Technical assistance in evaluation to recipients of innovation grants

National Clearinghouse


  • Programs which “hold the potential for broad scale implementation and replication” and best practices in improving CPS
  • Procedures for investigation, assessment and prosecution of child abuse cases, methods of mitigating psychological trauma to child victims, and effective programs carried out by the states with CAPTA funds
  • Training resources for individuals engaged in child protection and prevention, and personnel in law enforcement, legal, judicial, medical, mental health, education and child welfare services
  • Best practices for referrals of child victims to physical and mental health and developmental services

Children’s Justice Act

Adds eligibility for funds to be used to improve handling of abuse and neglect cases of children with disabilities or serious health problems

Serving Non-English Speaking Families

Sense of Congress that organizations with CAPTA funds must ensure services and materials provided in a language other than English

CAPTA Report

Requires states to annually report to HHS how CAPTA funds were used alone or in combination with other federal funds to address the purposes and achieve the objectives of CAPTA

Authorization of Appropriations

Authorizes $120 million in FY 2004 for state grants and discretionary grants combined, with such sums each year thereafter through FY 2008

Title II: Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect


Title changed from “Community-Based Family Resource and Support” to “Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect”


Restates purpose of Title II to focus on developing “initiatives aimed at the prevention of child abuse and neglect” rather than “a network of…programs that coordinate resources” [throughout Title II the references to statewide networks are replaced by community-based and prevention focused activities; elsewhere references to “family resource and support program” are replaced by “programs and activities designed to strengthen and support families and prevent child abuse and neglect (through networks where appropriate)”


Restates purpose of grants to be for developing “community-based and prevention focused programs and activities designed to strengthen and support families to prevent child abuse and neglect,” rather than “statewide networks…of resource and support programs”

Purpose of Grants

Deletes decreasing risk of homelessness, and adds “commitment to meaningful parent leadership”


Adds “parents with disabilities” to individuals required to be involved in partnerships for planning and implementation of preventive services


Requires state applicant to provide an inventory of unmet needs and current programs for preventing child abuse and neglect

Local Program Requirements

Adds “voluntary home visiting” to respite care services identified as “other core services” to be provided “to the extent practicable,” along with initial core services such as parent education, mutual support, self help, outreach and referral services.

Performance Measures

  • Deletes reference to report on “establishment of respite care and other specific family resource services, and the expansion of existing services” and replaces with report on how unmet needs identified by the inventory have been addressed
  • Adds reference to “parents with disabilities” in reporting on families served


  • Updates definition of “children with disabilities” to conform with IDEA definition
  • Replaces definition of “family resource and support program” and “outreach services” with definition of “community-based and prevention focused programs and activities to prevent child abuse and neglect” as follows: “organizations such as family resource programs, family support programs, voluntary home visiting program, respite care programs, parenting education, mutual support programs, and other community programs or networks of such programs that provide activities that are designed to prevent or respond to child abuse and neglect”

Authorization of Appropriations

Authorizes $80 million for FY 2004, and such sums each year thereafter through FY 2008


Summary prepared by the National Child Abuse Prevention Coalition, June 2003

The conference report is available on Thomas.