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The National Association of Counsel for Children is currently working on federal advocacy involving the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.   


The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was first enacted in 1974. It is the only federal legislation exclusively dedicated to the prevention, assessment, identification, and treatment of child abuse and neglect.  

Since its enactment, Congress has amended the law several times to strengthen state child protective services and promote child abuse prevention.  CAPTA provides federal funding to states to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect.  As a condition of receiving state grant funds under that act, states are required to have certain procedures in place for receiving and responding to allegations of abuse or neglect and for ensuring children’s safety.

CAPTA is pending reauthorization and NACC is supporting reauthorization and advocating for changes in the law to ensure the right to counsel for children (among changes in other provisions including an increase in funding). 

Currently CAPTA requires"...that in every case involving a victim of child abuse or neglect which results in a judicial proceeding, a guardian ad litem, who has received training appropriate to the role, including training in early childhood, child, and adolescent development, and who may be an attorney or a court appointed special advocate who has received training appropriate to that role (or both), shall be appointed to represent the child in such proceedings"


This language confuses and conflates the role of a lawyer with the role of a lay advocate and lets states decide whether to provide children legal representation or volunteer lay advocacy, or both (NACC's position is for states to provide both, which does work well in many states).


According to the most recent edition of A Child’s Right to Counsel: A National Report Card on Legal Representation of Abused & Neglected Children, 39% of states do not require legal representation for children in dependency proceedings.  The lack of access to counsel denies children an advocate with legal expertise to file motions, call witnesses, demand treatment, develop plans for family or sibling reunification, and obtain better life opportunities.  While a volunteer CASA or non-attorney GAL can be helpful to the court and the child, they are not substitutes for legal counsel.  Last year the federal Children’s Bureau acknowledged “there is widespread agreement in the field that children require legal representation in child welfare proceedings.”


Advocates expect Congress to consider reauthorization of CAPTA during 2019, although they could act earlier if they decide to do so.  CAPTA legislation is under the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce

If you have relationships with members of these committees and/or their staff and wish to support NACC's efforts please contact

NACC is monitoring developments regarding CAPTA reauthorization and will post all action alerts on this page.

You can also follow NACC on Facebook and Twitter for more information and/or sign-up for our newsletter here.





Tell DHS to Stop Separating Families at the Border!

National Call-in Day: Friday, May 4, 2018

Partner Toolkit| #ProtectFamilies


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is cruelly separating asylum-seeking children from their parents at the border for no legitimate reason. Immigration authorities have separated at least 700 children from their families, and about 100 of them are under the age of four. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit, on behalf of many immigrant parents, seeking to prohibit family separations at the border.

The ACLU will be in federal court in San Diego on May 4, seeking a nationwide preliminary injunction to reunite all the separated families and end this cruel, inhumane practice moving forward. Now we need to make sure our members of Congress take action to end this cruel practice once and for all. Let’s make sure no other families are ripped apart.

On May 4th we will be driving calls and tweets to ask Congress to tell DHS to stop separating families at the border!


The ACLU has set up this handy call tool so you can reach your Senators:

Sample script:

Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME] and my zip code is [YOUR ZIP]. I’m asking the Senator/Representative to use Congress' oversight authority to stop separating families at the U.S. border.

[Organization’s name] strongly opposes the cruel practice of separating children and parents. I am urging [insert Representative’s/Senator’s name] to do the same and tell DHS to immediately end this practice.


Sample tweets:

  • Tweet 1: Today @ACLU is in federal court to fight for the immediate reunion of hundreds of immigrant children and parents who have been separated by the Trump administration. #ProtectFamilies

  • Tweet 2: Hundreds of families are being forcibly separated for no legitimate reason. It must end. #ProtectFamilies

  • Tweet 3: DHS Secretary @SecNielsen wants Congress and the public to avert their eyes from this ugly pattern of abuse.

We will not. Hundreds of children and families are depending upon us to speak up. #ProtectFamilies

  • Tweet 4: Medical experts know that the trauma that these children are experiencing is incalculable.

No matter how ICE attempts to spin its actions, the suffering it is causing is intentional and illegal, and the Trump administration must be held accountable.

  • Tweet 5: Call your member of Congress and demand they rein in @SecNielsen's attacks on immigrant families. #ProtectFamilies

  • Tweet 6: Trump's immigration force has already ripped hundreds of children away from their parents. #ProtectFamilies



Health-focused tweets (drafted by American Academy of Pediatrics)

  • Separating children from their parents at the border as they arrive seeking safe haven, which the federal government is currently doing, is cruel, inhumane and harms children’s health. We must end this practice once and for all.  #ProtectFamilies

  • .(@handle of U.S. Senator or Representative): Please oppose the practice of separating children from their parents at the border. @AmerAcadPeds has spoken out against it because it harms children's health. Today I join them. #ProtectFamilies

  • .(@handle of U.S. Senator or Representative), more than 200 organizations signed a letter demanding that the Department of Homeland Security #ProtectFamilies and end the practice of separating children from their parents at border. Please join us:

  • Highly stressful experiences, including being separated from a parent, can harm children’s developing brains and their overall health, which is why I oppose the forced separation of children and their parents at the border. We must #ProtectFamilies, not tear them apart.

  • I stand with @AmerAcadPeds and  @AAPPres, who writes in the @latimes that the government should #ProtectFamilies, not tear them apart. We must stop separating parents and children when they arrive here seeking refuge:



Take Action to Protect SNAP: Sign-On Letter & Call Day Tuesday May 8
House Bill Threatens to Deny Food to 2 MILLION People

From First Focus and the Children's Budget Coalition

NACC is a member of the Children's Budget Coalition and has signed onto this letter.


We are asking national child advocacy organizations to sign-on to the attached letter urging Representatives to vote NO on the House Farm Bill, The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2)


H.R. 2 will harm the millions of children who rely on federal nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for access to consistent, healthy food. 


The attached letter written jointly by First Focus and the Children’s Leadership Council outlines how the bill’s proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will lead to a direct cut in benefits and access to school meals for poor and low-income children. 


The letter also specifically outlines how key components of the Farm Bill will impact a cross section of vulnerable children, including: 

·         children ages 6 -18;

·         children being raised by grandparents or military veterans; and 

·         former foster youth, unaccompanied homeless youth and young adults. 


This letter is open to national children’s organizations. Please note, the language in this letter is noncontroversial, and we hope your organization can sign on.  


Please also share with other national children’s groups you work with so they may sign-on as well! We are hoping for a large number of children’s organization on the letter. 


To sign your organization on, please use this link by COB Tuesday, May 8thFor questions, please contact Rachel Merker with First Focus at or Randi Schmidt with the Children’s Leadership Council at 

From the Coalition on Human Needs

Action NOW:

Call Your Rep!:  On  Tuesday, May 8th, we all need to call our members of Congress and tell them to "Vote NO on H.R. 2, the Farm Bill!"  (Seriously, this means you and everyone you can reach about this.)  Please make use of (CHN Member) Feeding America's toll free number: 1-888-398-8702.  You will be connected to your Representative's office by putting in your zip code. It is imperative that we let Congress know that we want them to "Vote NO on H.R. 2" because its rigid work rules will reduce or eliminate SNAP for millions. It will deny food to children, veterans, women, and people needing treatment and/or with disabilities.   Please share this number with your networks and ask them to encourage people to call.  The number is live now and people can start calling now but please make sure you call on Tuesday, May 8th!

Share on Social Media:

Be sure to join (CHN Members) Center For American Progress, CBPP, FRAC and others for a digital day of action on Tuesday, May 8th to get word out that Congress needs to "Vote NO on H.R. 2!"  Make sure to use #HandsOffSNAP. The action will go all day but we're especially encouraging everyone to tweet/post during the 1:00pm ET hour to maximize reach.

Learn More:
This fight to keep SNAP strong and free of arbitrary work rules really intended to deny assistance is the same fight playing out across other vital low-income programs.  Defeating H.R. 2's SNAP cuts will strengthen our hand when it comes to similar fights over
 housing assistance, Medicaid, and other social programs.  Learn more 
here, on our Protecting Basic Needs campaign/resource page.


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