Promoting Justice and Healing
The Texas CJA program brings together child-protection and criminal justice experts to improve the state's response to cases of child abuse and neglect.
CJA 101 Presentation
The Children’s Justice Act (CJA) is a federal grant awarded to each state to develop, establish, and operate programs designed to improve the child-protection system in four primary areas:
- The handling of child abuse and neglect cases, including cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation, in a manner which limits additional trauma to the child victim;
- The handling of cases of suspected child abuse and neglect related fatalities;
- The investigation and prosecution of cases of child abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse and exploitation; and
- The handling of cases involving children with disabilities or serious health-related problems who are the victims of abuse and neglect.
CJA funds are to be primarily focused on the front end, intake and investigative piece of child welfare.
CAPTA as originally authorized in 1974 provided financial assistance for identifying, preventing, and treating child abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse. In 1985, however, the number of children suffering from child abuse was still unknown and reports indicated the magnitude of the problem was increasing. While there was no definitive data on the extent of harm caused by child sexual abuse, reports indicated both short and long term social and psychological effects and possible physical trauma to the child victim, as well as long term social and economic costs. Despite the obvious harm to individuals and society, very few programs existed to address this need.
The CJA program, enacted as an amendment to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in 1985, established a federal grant program within the Department of Health and Human Services to assist states in developing programs and procedures designed to
- Reduce the trauma to child victims of abuse especially child sexual abuse
- Improve the chances of successful prosecution or legal action against child abusers and molesters
- Improve procedures for protecting children from abuse
In order to be eligible for CJA funding, states were required to establish or maintain a multidisciplinary Task Force on children’s justice. The Task Force would make recommendations regarding reforms needed to improve the state’s response to child sexual abuse in each of the three categories. To remain eligible for CJA funding, states had to adopt recommendations within each category or submit a detailed explanation to the Secretary, who would then review the state’s efforts and determine whether to grant them eligibility.
In 1995, legislation expanded the work and focus of CJA to include the handling of cases of suspected child abuse or neglect related fatalities. In 2003, the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act further expanded the focus of CJA to address the handling of cases of children with disabilities and serious health problems who are victims of abuse or neglect.
Pursuant to the federal program instructions, CJA funding should be used to reform state systems and improve the processes by which states respond to cases of child abuse and neglect and to monitor the ongoing implementation of Task Force recommendations. Supporting child abuse prevention programs, adoption, or treatment services is not an appropriate use of CJA funding.