Preventing child abuse and neglect must remain a national priority, James Madison University psychologist Joann Grayson, PhD, told the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee in October.
Grayson, who has served as a forensic evaluator in Virginia courts for 25 years and coordinates a Virginia prevention and intervention program for maltreated children, testified during the House committee's hearing on the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Among the law's provisions is funding for the Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Citing the lifelong negative effects of child maltreatment--such as higher incidence of psychiatric disorders and substance abuse, premature death and the risk of victims mistreating their own children--Grayson explained that CAPTA has funded research, child services and parent training that have been essential in reducing teen pregnancy, substantiated cases of child abuse and the incidence of shaken babies.
"When I began my career, child abuse cases were often not pursued at all, and sentences for offenders--when convicted--were minimal," Grayson said. "In recent years, many changes have occurred in my community...What has made the difference since the early 1970s when I started my career? CAPTA has funded training for mental health services, for CPS workers, for judges, for doctors and others. The legislation has supported research, the development of protocols, court improvement projects and many intervention and prevention efforts.
"CAPTA has a unique role in supporting system improvement, prevention, services and research," Grayson told the committee. "The need for CAPTA is clear. It has been successful in many ways, but the work of this legislation is not finished. Child abuse and neglect must remain a national priority."