Merkley, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect in Indian Country

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with a bipartisan group of seven senators, introduced the American Indian and Alaska Native Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, legislation to amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to help provide tribal nations with resources to combat child abuse and neglect.

As the primary federal law addressing child abuse and neglect, CAPTA has been crucial in protecting children in the United States. However, it has not gone far enough to address the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native children. Though CAPTA contains specific language regarding tribal eligibility for discretionary grants and an emphasis on American Indian and Alaska Native child maltreatment issues, tribal nations rarely receive federal CAPTA grants, and research projects that focus specifically on unique tribal community issues are largely unfunded.

“We can all agree that we want to live in a world where every child—regardless of what they look like or where they live—is safe and cared for,” said Merkley, who serves as the Chair of the subcommittee that directs federal funding for tribal programs. “Leaving Native communities out of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act is wrong and it’s long past time this injustice is corrected. If we want to live by our values of liberty, justice, health, and prosperity for all, we must stand up for these children, by supporting their communities’ efforts to keep them safe.”

This week’s legislation would help fill that gap, by amending CAPTA to require that tribal nations be included in the equitable distribution criteria for allocating CAPTA federal funding. It also increases the dedicated tribal set-aside for funding from 1 percent to 5 percent when overall CAPTA funding increases—bolstering community funding available for child abuse and neglect prevention efforts and helping to address current limitation in the development of innovative child abuse and neglect prevention program models in tribal communities. The legislation would also require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on child abuse and neglect prevention efforts in tribal communities that GAO would conduct in consultation with tribal nations.

In addition to Merkley, the legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Tina Smith (D-MN). Companion legislation was introduced in the House by U.S. Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ-03).