Washington, D.C. – As the COVID-19 pandemic strains the child welfare system, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined his colleagues in introducing the Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act, which would provide $500 million in emergency funds for local child protective services and $1 billion for community-based child abuse prevention programs. The funds for these local child protective services and community based programs are flexible, and can be used to target populations that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including racial and ethnic minorities, children with disabilities, families experiencing domestic violence or homelessness, and LGBTQ youth.

Families are experiencing unprecedented stress during this national emergency, which increases the risk of child abuse. And at the same time children are being kept home, making it harder to identify abusive situations. And as a result, local child protective services and non-profits that prevent child abuse are facing much higher levels of need and new challenges strengthening families and keeping children safe. This bill would provide swift, flexible funding to allow them to bolster their efforts.

“This crisis is particularly challenging for children who are at risk for abuse,” said Brown. “And while local child protective services are doing the best they can, most are not equipped to do virtual home visits. In order to protect children and workers, we have to ensure these organizations have the technology to safely carry out child abuse prevention programs.”

The Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act would strengthen systems put in place by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). CAPTA provides funding to states to improve child protective services and funds community-based activities that stops child abuse and neglect before it happens.

In addition to Brown, the legislation is led by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

In March, Brown urged the Trump Administration to issue national guidance for child welfare agencies who must still work to protect and support children during the COVID-19 outbreak. In a letter sent to Vice President Mike Pence and Administration on Children, Youth and Families Commissioner Elizabeth Darling, Brown urged the Administration to issue comprehensive guidance to states and tribes to ensure youth have access to the full range of support services required to meet their educational, health, and housing needs, regardless of where they live.

In April, Brown joined his colleagues in a letter to Senate leadership urging them to ensure the next COVID-19 relief package provides crucial support to some of America’s most vulnerable children, youth, and families by equipping the child welfare system with the tools it needs to handle this crisis.

Youth in the child welfare system reside in a variety of settings ranging from foster family placements, to kinship or relative care, to congregate care, with each setting posing its own unique challenges to protecting youth from the spread of COVID-19. Yet, recent reports have shown that regardless of the placement setting, the spread of COVID-19 threatens the ability of these vulnerable youth to access much needed educational, health, mental health and housing resources.

Read more about Brown’s legislation here.