The Supporting Family Mental Health in CAPTA Act (HR 2503, 116th Congress) would amend portions of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA; Public Law 93-247; 42 U.S.C. 5101, 5104, 5105, 5106, 5116) to bolster mental health services available for populations under CAPTA. Collectively, these amendments would augment the existing US law with mental health provisions to allow for improved, evidence-based mental health service offerings for children who have been abused or neglected. The Act specifically addresses issues including to promote cross-agency collaboration to ensure mental health treatment is provided, specifying the inclusion of community-based resources in preventing child abuse and neglect, and including behavioral health services in the grant provisions.
CAPTA was signed into law in 1974 by the 93rd Congress as the first piece of legislation focused on child abuse and neglect. Since then, it has been amended and expanded a number of times (2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), child abuse and neglect occurs with four common types: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. An estimated one in seven children have experienced abuse or neglect in any given year, and the children who experience this abuse or neglect are unequally distributed among families with low socio-economic status compared to children in higher socio-economic families. Along with physical injuries, experts are concerned about the long-term mental health effects from this toxic stress, and the CDC notes that this childhood experience leaves them susceptible to conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder and difficulties with learning, attention, and memory.