Government of the District of Columbia
Child and Family Services Agency
Testimony of Lionel C. Sims, Jr., Esq.
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Amendment Act of 2011, Bill 19-466
Committee on Human Services
Jim Graham, Chair
Council of the District of Columbia
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Council Chamber, Room 500
Washington, DC 20004
Good morning, Chairman Graham and members of the Human Services Committee. I
am Lionel Sims, General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Child and Family
Services Agency. Congress enacted the "CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 20 10" to
reauthorize and amend the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. CAPTA
is an important source of federal funding for abuse and neglect prevention and treatment
programs. For the District to continue to be eligible for these funds, we must comply
with the Reauthorization Act's new eligibility requirements. Fortunately, the District
implemented many of these new provisions before passage of the Reauthorization Act,
such as establishment of a differential response program. However, local legislation is
necessary to bring the District into compliance with two provisions: referrals for infants
identified as having a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and reunification efforts for
parents who have committed sex offenses. Proposed Bill 19-466 covers these matters,
which I will discuss today.
The Reauthorization Act addresses the safety and wellbeing of infants who suffer from
the adverse effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. Studies have shown that exposure to
alcohol during pregnancy can cause low birth weight as well as a range of developmental,
mental, and physical problems. Early intervention is crucial in improving outcomes for
these children by providing services for learning disabilities, speech and language delays,
and behavioral issues. Families often need services to help them understand and cope
with the challenges their children face. To ensure these children and their families
receive the services they need, the Reauthorization Act creates a new CAPTA eligibility
requirement mandating that health care providers report to the 24-hour hotline when they
identify an infant as having a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD is an
umbrella term describing the effects that may occur due to prenatal alcohol exposure
including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Bill 19-466 incorporates this CAPTA provision by requiring that District health care
providers call CFSA's hotline when they identify an infant under age one as having a
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. In keeping with Congressional intent that prenatal
alcohol exposure not be a category of abuse or neglect, a hotline call regarding FASD
will not automatically trigger an investigation but will stimulate the District to offer
services to these families for the child.
CAPTA also mandates that states and the District enact legislation that explicitly
provides that reunification efforts are not required when a parent has been found by a
court to have committed certain criminal acts towards his or her child. The
Reauthorization Act amends this CAPTA provision by adding two new requirements.
Specifically, no reunification is required if a parent (1) must register with a sex offender
registry or (2) has sexually abused of one of his or her children. Bill 19-466 incorporates
both of these provisions, and we agree with them.
Bill 19-466 will not only ensure that the District is in compliance with the CAPTA
Reauthorization Act of 2010 but will also improve outcomes for the city's most
vulnerable children. It will ensure that infants identified as having FASD and their
parents receive early treatment and supportive services. It will also assist the District in
making permanency decisions that are in the best interests of the child. I respectfully
urge the Council to enact this important and necessary legislation. Thank you.
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