December 12, 2019

HELP Committee Passes Key Provisions Of Kaine Bills To Strengthen Support For Children At Risk Of Abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded HELP Committee passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which includes key provisions of his legislation to strengthen America’s child welfare system: the Child Welfare Workforce Support Act and the Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act. The Child Welfare Workforce Support Act would address high turnover rates among child welfare workers, and the Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act would help prevent the maltreatment of LGBTQ youth, who are nearly four times more likely to experience childhood sexual abuse than their non-LGBTQ peers. The pair of bills would help ensure there are enough well-trained child welfare workers and improve outcomes for vulnerable youth. In addition to Kaine, the Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act is cosponsored by Senator Tammy Baldwin. 

“As we reform our child welfare system, it’s important that we grapple with the reality that LGBTQ youth are significantly more likely to suffer from abuse than other kids. I’m thankful that my colleagues supported my legislation to help ensure our child welfare policies reflect this reality and protect LGBTQ children. I’m also pleased we were able to pass provisions of my bill to address major shortages in the child welfare workforce — whether it’s social workers or other mental health professionals. We need more resources to help prevent child abuse and neglect, create greater stability for families, and improve services for vulnerable kids. I’m hopeful this legislation will help make sure we have the workforce in place to meet that demand,” said Kaine.

The physical and emotional challenges inherent in child welfare work, combined with relatively low compensation and work benefits, make these careers difficult to sustain, resulting in high turnover rates — including a 30% annual turnover rate in Virginia. High turnover decreases the quality of services delivered to children and families and results in an estimated cost of $54,000 per worker leaving an agency.

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act includes the following provisions from Kaine’s bills:

From the Child Welfare Workforce Support Act:

Creates a capacity building grant program that would:

  • Reduce barriers to recruitment, development, and retention of child welfare workers.
  • Better support the child welfare workforce and their efforts to better meet the unique needs of infants and children.
  • Provide ongoing professional development opportunities and support, including addressing secondary trauma, to improve the retention of child welfare workers.

From the Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act:

  • Include a definition for underreported and overrepresented youth in the child welfare system that references risk factors associated with LGBTQ youth.
  • Direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct research to protect underserved populations, including LGBTQ youth, from child abuse and neglect and to improve the well-being of victims.
  • Include individuals experienced in working with underserved populations, including LGBTQ youth and families, in state task forces.