By Rep. Elise Stefanik

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected seemingly every aspect of our way of life. It has taken our loved ones, devastated our economy, rocked our healthcare system, and shuttered our schools. But perhaps, most tragically of all, it has had devastating effects on our children.

Experts believe that the rise in job loss and economic instability, coupled with measures including lockdowns and school closures, has caused a drastic, hidden surge in child abuse and neglect. The full impact of this crisis remains unknown, as children are spending less time with teachers, caretakers, coaches, and other adults who most often report mistreatment.

Child protective services agencies and community-based organizations continue to work on the front line of this crisis, but Congress must do its part to address this tragic reality. Fortunately, there is an opportunity to do so in the coming week —by voting for the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

I’m co-leading this legislation with a bipartisan group of my colleagues on the House Education and Labor Committee to help states improve the effectiveness of child protective services, strengthen networks of prevention services to support families, improve coordination and data-sharing between states, provide states resources to develop statewide networks of family services, and increase collaboration with parents and other members of the community in planning and implementing supportive services.

I co-authored a critical provision in the bill that will establish a national child abuse hotline. The hotline would serve as a life-saving resource for abused children and as a tool for adults seeking advice upon witnessing signs of neglect among children in their neighborhoods, apartment buildings, and communities.

The Stronger CAPTA Act, and particularly this bipartisan provision to establish a national child abuse hotline, comes to the House floor at a critical time in which we can make urgently needed improvements to measures that will prevent child abuse in the months and years ahead. The Stronger CAPTA Act will fund research on child abuse and neglect prevention and treatment strategies, improve technical assistance networks to help local providers put these strategies into practice, and enhance professional development opportunities for child welfare staff.

Every member of Congress has a solemn responsibility to help America’s children during the crisis we face and to provide them with a safer, better future. This week, we have an opportunity to do just that. We must come together to pass the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Millions of children in America depend on it.

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