Luján Introduces Alternative Pathways to Child Abuse Prevention Act

Bill connects families to community-based services, allows Child Protective Services to focus on children most at risk

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) today introduced legislation to promote the implementation of alternative responses to child protective services (CPS) for families who are considered low risk. The Alternative Pathways to Child Abuse Prevention Act requires states to submit an alternative response plan in order to receive federal grant funding under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). The bill also improves data collection on the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child abuse and neglect, and encourages Tribes to adopt intervention procedures to enhance the safety of children and victims of domestic violence.

“Families shouldn’t be punished or separated because they lack the resources to care for their children,” said Senator Luján. “Providing alternatives to traditional child protective services keeps kids safe while helping families get back on track with the help of community-based services. It also allows overburdened CPS caseworkers to focus their limited time and resources on the children at the greatest risk of serious harm. The solutions put forth in the Alternative Pathways to Child Abuse Prevention Act are crucial to supporting struggling families and protecting vulnerable children.”

The Alternative Pathways to Child Abuse Prevention Act is endorsed by the Alliance for Strong Families & Communities and Council on Accreditation, National Family Support Network, Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, Child Welfare League of America, Futures Without Violence, Prevent Child Abuse America, and Zero to Three.

“This legislation is an important step forward to re-focusing efforts on connecting families to resources and supports that address their needs and challenges rather than over-reliance on the child welfare system which has been demonstrated to penalize poverty, manifest biases towards families of color, and stigmatize and separate families for generations,” said Andrew Russo, Co-Founder & Director of the National Family Support Network.

“Most families referred to the child welfare system aren’t abusing their kids, they just need help caring for them. Yet too often we see mothers who are hurt by an abusive boyfriend or who simply lack child care being reported to child welfare. Some children are even taken from their mothers simply because that parent is poor or because she is blamed for the actions of others. We must fix this system so that children in danger are truly protected and that families who need help with basic needs get that help outside of the system,” said Kiersten Stewart, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy for Futures Without Violence. “That’s why the Alternative Pathways bill is so important – it uses our child welfare funding more efficiently and keeps families safer.”  

“We proudly endorse Senator Lujan’s introduced Alternative Pathways to Child Abuse Prevention Act, which can help to set in motion an important culture shift, one in which a system of voluntary care and support can proactively meet the needs of families and communities prior to a child welfare intervention,” said Dr. Melissa M. Merrick, president & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “Research consistently reveals the unequal exposure to and effects of trauma and adversity within communities of color, but too many of our policies and systems produce, rather than eliminate, such disparities. This legislation will be an important tool in expanding supports to families who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. We applaud Senator Lujan’s leadership and dedication to reducing racial discrimination and disproportionality in the child welfare system and systemic and structural discrimination overall.”

“All families deserve help when they need it. Alternative pathways to supporting families advances the Alliance-COA’s goals to move upstream in addressing child abuse and neglect, to insist on equity and eliminate over surveillance of families, and to promote the conditions that allow all families to thrive,” said Jody Levison-Johnson, President and CEO of The Alliance for Strong Families & Communities and Council on Accreditation.

“Struggling families need support – not surveillance. This bill will help ensure that struggling families get support that all of us need from time to time, and also reduce the burden of unnecessary referrals to the child welfare system,” said Jim McKay, Policy Director for the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance.

“We need a child and family wellbeing system that builds on family strengths and gives babies the stability they need to thrive. We applaud Senator Lujan’s recognition that communities need to intentionally build such a system and families need a clear way to enter it,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, Chief Policy Officer at ZERO TO THREE.

Full text of the legislation is available HERE.


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