The foundation for government's involvement in child maltreatment is supported by the concept of parens patriae. It is a legal term used to reinforce the fact that government has a pivotal role to play in protecting and ensuring the interests of children since their intervention becomes necessary following parents’ failure to dispense proper care. At the dawn of late 19th century, states and local jurisdictions began to mull over putting mechanism in place in order to assist and protect children.
Then in 1912, the Federal Government laid the foundation of the Children’s Bureau to guide federal programs designed to support State child welfare programs as well as to direct Federal aid to families, which began with the passage of the Social Security Act (SSA) in 1935. The child welfare policy of the SSA layered Federal funds over existing State-supervised and administered programs that were already in place.
It has long been realized that parents do have a basic liberty which is protected and endorsed by the Constitution to rear their children as they like. The legal structure concerning the parent-child relationship strikes a balance between the rights and responsibilities among the parents, the child, and the State, as guided by Federal statutes. This parent-child relationship serves to identify certain rights, duties, and obligation including the responsibility of the parents to ensuring the protection of the child’s safety and well-being.
If parents, however, are unable or unwilling to meet this responsibility, the State has the power and authority to take action to protect the child from harm. Over the past several decades, Congress has passed significant pieces of legislation that support the States' duty and power to act on behalf of children when parents are unable or unwilling to do so.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is one of significant key pieces of legislation that ensures child protection. CAPTA, in its original inception, was signed into law on January 31, 1974 (P.L. 93-247). It was reauthorized in 1978, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2003, and with each reauthorization, amendments have been made to CAPTA that have expanded and refined the scope of the law.
The most important responsibility for child welfare services lies with the States and each State has put in place its own legal and administrative composition and programs to meet the needs of affected children and families. Nevertheless, it is incumbent on states to comply with the exclusive federal requirements and guidelines so as to be eligible for federal funding under certain programs.
Starting with the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in 1974, the U.S. Congress has put into practice a number of laws that leave an enormous impact on State child protection and child welfare services.
Such legislation regularly needs Federal departments and agencies like the Children's Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to issue or amend Federal policy and regulation. New legislation also elicits responses at the State level including enactment of State legislation, development or revision of State agency policy and regulations, and implementation of new programs.(Baylain, 2000)
The prime federally funded programs that endorse State and Tribal efforts for child welfare, foster care, and adoption activities are authorized under titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act (the Act). Administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and encompass the title IV-B Child Welfare Services and Promoting Safe and Stable Families (previously known as Family Preservation) programs, the title IV-E Foster Care Program, the title IV-E Adoption Assistance Program, and the title IV-E Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) is an authorized and signing authority under the title XX of the Act and is responsible for funding a wide range of programs that substantiate various goals of social policy.
In order to come up with a framework for understanding the Federal legislation that has shaped the delivery of child welfare services, it is necessary to analyze federal legislation in its historical and current context. The Federal Government started providing grants to States for preventive and protective services and foster care payments in 1935 with the Child Welfare Services Program, title IV-B of the Social Security Act. In 1961, legislation paved the way for care maintenance payments under the Aid to Dependent Children Program, title IV-A of the Social Security Act. Both of these programs went through amendments by the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. (Elliot, 2002)
Bailyn, Bernard, ed.(2000) The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters During the Struggle for Ratification. Part One
Elliot, Jonathan,(2002) The Debates in the Several State Conventions of the Adoption of the Federal Constitution 5 vols Vol. 1, Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Journal of Federal Convention, Vol. 2, State Conventions Massachusetts,