There are federal, state, county, and even tribal laws that have been put into place to protect both the client and the human service worker. Some are more of a guiding tool for human service workers, while some laws are designed to protect the client in a wide variety of ways.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was originally enacted in January 1974 to require agencies to assess, investigate, and provide treatment, and prosecution in order to receive federal funding. To fully understand everything that this law has to offer, we must learn more about it. Possibly the best place to find information on this law, would be directly from the Cornell University Law School website, here they have a copy of the full text of CAPTA. The website is http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/chapter-67. This website actually breaks the law down; it is still in its full context, just made easier to read.
The first subsection of the law is the General Program. This area provides information in general about the law. The second subsection is Adoption Opportunities. The third subsection is Community Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. The fourth subsection is Temporary Child Care for Children with Disabilities and Crisis Intervention. The fifth subsection is Abandoned Infants Assistance. The sixth subsection is Certain Preventive Services Regarding Children of Homeless Families or Families at Risk for Homelessness.
The final subsection is Child Abuse Crime Information and Background Checks. Each area has valuable information that a human service worker is bound to come into contact with (Cornell University Law School, 2011). The original purpose of this law was to help eliminate and prevent child abuse. However, over the years the law has been rewritten, revised, and underwent many other changes. Today, CAPTA sets guidelines for how and who can adopt children, with strict guidelines that must be followed by both the potential adoptive parents and the human service worker.
The law also provides Federal Grants to agencies that fall under its guidelines. Many agencies could not exist or be of any benefit to the community without this funding. This law protects children with disabilities, by means that housing that is unique to them be defined with specialized training and equipped to do so. Abandoned infants are a unique situation that is not as easy as one would expect to solve. Even though the “client” is unable to speak for themselves, they still need protection. When dealing with near homeless or homeless families, a human service worker may find they are unsure when to become involved more, which is something that this law will help guide them through.
Finally, to protect children all around, it is now apparent that certain jobs that work with children must make their employees subject to background checks. CAPTA will certainly have a heavy impact on human service workers in many ways. This law is actually the beginning basis for child abuse laws in general. Over the years many laws have been designed in similarities to model their own version of CAPTA.
Human Service workers will find themselves both enforcing the laws that are under CAPTA, as well as following the rules that are defined under CAPTA. Sometimes, a human service worker may find themselves referring to CAPTA with the client to explain what is required and what is not. For example, if a client would like to adopt a child, the human service worker may have to refer to it, so that they can better explain why they are or are not approved to adopt.
CAPTA also requires anyone who works in a position with a child to report suspected child abuse to the proper authorities. In some cases, the human service worker may find that it could have been a false allegation, however due to CAPTA’s strict regulations; they are forced to go through with an investigation to ensure the child is safe.
Some still argue that CAPTA gives too much power to government officials. In 1993 Janet Reno went under the gun for a siege accusing more than 87 adults of suspected child abuse. They argue that CAPTA gave far too much power to social workers, and that in the event of a crime without proper evidence, they can use CAPTA if children are present to gain “access” for a siege. This is far from what CAPTA was designed for.
The same website also argues that CAPTA is far from effective. That parents are no longer permitted to punish their children, now punishment is now considered child abuse (Family Rights Association, n.d.). Who is really at risk if no one follows the law? In many cases it is the client, not always a child; sometimes it could be a mentally or physically handicapped adult.
Worst case scenario the client could suffer if no help arrives, to even as bad as death. However, if the human service workers do not follow the law, they risk losing this valuable funding to their organization. Without this funding, many organizations could not exist at all. Then, where would the clients be? Without an organization to fight to keep them safe, and for their rights, there would be no help for them. The clients would certainly face the same problems.
References Cornell University Law School. (2011). 42 USC Chapter 67. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/chapter-67 Family Rights Association. (n.d.). Twenty Years of CAPTA. Retrieved from http://familyrightsassociation.com/bin/brochures/20_years_CAPTA/capta.html