In late May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that reauthorized the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) by a voice vote. The new version, H.R. 2480, the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act sponsored by U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., expands the current law’s abuse prevention outreach requirements to include “sexual and gender minority youth.”
CAPTA was first passed in 1974 and was last reauthorized in 2010. Since then, the law has been amended four times.
CAPTA provides federal funding and guidance to states in support with their child abuse prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities. Additionally, the law authorizes federal funding for public agencies and nonprofit organizations.
Under the current law, a state’s governor has to ensure that the state’s lead entity overseeing CAPTA grant recipients partners with individuals and organizations who have experience working with families with disabled children and disabled parents, and who are experienced with the state’s child abuse and prevention activities.
H.R. 2480 strikes the original language. It expands the groups which a state’s lead entity (usually the state’s child welfare or human services department) must partner with, including among them individuals and organizations who are experienced working with low-income families, racial and ethnic minorities, families with children or caregivers with disabilities, sexual and gender minority youth, and with victims of domestic violence.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines “sexual minority” youth as those who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual. They also included transgender persons in that definition. The bill requiring the lead agency to integrate its child abuse and neglect prevention and treatment efforts with those who are experienced with “sexual and gender minority youth” is problematic for two reasons.
1.) It could limit resource options to those on one side of the treatment debate for LGBT youth.
The bill further states that the lead entity “will take into consideration access for diverse populations and unmet need when distributing funds to local programs.”
If a state does not have programming focused on LGBT youth, guess where the funding focus will be? Who will be the recipients of funding or the groups with whom the state “integrates their efforts?”
From what we see at the federal level, these will only be groups who believe one’s sexual orientation and gender identity are immutable.
CDC links to NCTE’s resource “Know Your Rights – Health Care,” which says, “(I)t is illegal discrimination for your health insurance plan to refuse to cover medically necessary transition-related care.”
They also describe age limits on various treatments as “arbitrary.”
Contrary to what the Left says, the debate over what is “medically necessary” for those with gender dysphoria is far from settled, but it is unlikely states will partner with organizations with a different perspective.
In fact, 16 states and the District of Columbia and over 40 cities and counties have already implemented “conversion therapy” bans that are so broad they include “talk therapy,” a common counseling technique.
2.) States could expand their definition of abuse to include parents who refuse to affirm their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity is real.
What about parents who do not want to put their child diagnosed with gender dysphoria on puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, or object to sex reassignment surgery? What if parents want their child to reconsider their sexual orientation in adherence to their faith?
Many LGBT advocates — some of the very same advocates who will partner with states under this law — consider that abusive.
We don’t have to imagine this; it has already happened in Ohio. A judge in Cincinnati terminated the parental rights of a couple who were charged with child abuse because they objected to testosterone treatments for their daughter.
There was also a bill offered in Nebraska this year that attempted to include subjecting a child to conversion therapy in the state’s legal definition of child abuse (fortunately it was withdrawn).
Will parents who want to encourage “watchful waiting” be labeled as abusive even though studies have shown 80 to 95 percent of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria eventually accept their biological sex?
A Better Path
Ideally, since the H.R. 2480 touts evidence-based practices, they should utilize comprehensive research on family structure and address the population most at risk of child abuse and neglect — children in unstable families. Emilie Kao and Nicolas Marr of the Heritage Foundation recently pointed out in their critique of this bill that children living in single-parent households with an unmarried partner were sexually abused at a rate nearly 20 times higher than children living with their married biological parents. Yet H.R. 2480 says nothing about that group of kids.
Better still, bills that are not reauthorized by Congress should sunset. I’m tired of federal programs existing in perpetuity even after their reauthorization deadline has passed. That, unfortunately, is unlikely. Pragmatically, while parental rights concerns exist with the current law, a clean bill similar to what was offered in 2010 is preferable to what the House passed.