Tennessee’s Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice and
Child Sexual Abuse Frequently Asked Questions
About the Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice/Sexual Abuse –
Title 1 of the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act
- What is Title 1 of the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA)?
This federal legislation, Title I of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (the Act), authorizes grants to states for the purpose of assisting states in developing, establishing, and operating programs designed to improve (1) the handling of child abuse and neglect cases, particularly cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation, in a manner which limits additional trauma to the child victim; (2) the handling of cases of suspected child abuse- or neglect-related fatalities; and (3) the investigation and prosecution of cases of child abuse and neglect, particularly child sexual abuse and exploitation.
- What is the role of Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice/Sexual Abuse members?
Members are mandated to undertake a comprehensive review and evaluation of the law, policy, and the investigative, administrative, and judicial handling of cases of child abuse and neglect and to make training and policy recommendations. Members also advise and assist Tennessee state departments, including the Departments of Children’s Services, Education, Health, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and Human Services; child advocates; service providers; law enforcement; and the judiciary in carrying out their duties related to child protection and responding to child abuse and neglect.Additionally, members participate in developing a State Plan on a biannual basis, which is provided to the General Assembly, appropriate committees, and the governor, documenting their assessment (review, evaluation, and recommendations). The plan is due no later than January 31 and must include recommendations for the detection, intervention, prevention, and treatment of child abuse and neglect.
- Who is required to participate on the task force?
The JTF has both federal and state requirements for membership.Federally required members include at least one representative from each of the following categories: law enforcement community, criminal court judge, family court judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, child advocate (attorney for children), Court Appointed Special Advocate/volunteer guardian ad litem (including a representative of the state guardian ad litem program), health professional, mental health professional, child protective service agency, individual experienced in working with children with disabilities, parent and representative of parent group, adult former victim of child abuse and/or neglect, and individuals experienced in working with homeless children and youths.State required members include at least one representative from each of the following categories: the Departments of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Children’s Services, Education, Health and Human Services, the Commission on Children and Youth, a child abuse agency, a treatment resource, a local child service agency, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the district attorneys general conference, the Tennessee council of juvenile and family court judges and local law enforcement.
- Are there standing committees?
Yes, there are seven standing committees. They are:
- Executive Committee – The Executive Committee consists of the President, Vice President, Secretary, and Chairs of the Standing Committees. This committee functions as the Committee on Committees and is responsible for forwarding names to the Commissioner of the Department of Children’s Services to serve on the Joint Task Force. This committee also serves as an advisory committee to standing and ad hoc committees.
- Child Protective Investigation Team (CPIT) Committee – This committee focuses on issues related to multidisciplinary investigative teams and promotes training of all professionals involved in the investigation of severe child abuse and neglect cases and those warranting criminal prosecutions. The committee also supports initiatives surrounding child abuse investigations, confidentiality, and improving the child protective system.
- Court Improvement Committee – This committee looks at ways to ensure that the courts are responsive to the special needs of children. For instance, this committee has developed training materials and protocols to advise and train judges involved in child protective proceedings with a fundamental understanding of child abuse and its traumatic effects on child development and functioning.
- Prevention – This committee is charged with identifying meaningful ways to partner with communities so that the responsibility for preventing maltreatment and supporting families is broadly shared. The committee also builds community awareness through discussion and joint decision making with community partners such as child welfare-serving agencies and other critical stakeholders.
- Training and Education Committee – This committee promotes professionalism and competency through initiatives that support issues of education pertaining to public child welfare.
- Treatment Committee – This committee focuses on mental health and medical issues for children and families where there has been abuse or neglect and the situation has implications for vulnerable and low-income families to access treatment.
- Ad Hoc Committee – This committee meets on an as-needed basis to discuss legislative issues related to the safety, well-being, and permanency of children.
In addition, all members are committed to improving services to children and families in the child welfare system and to working with all Tennesseans to reduce the number of children in need of services. Members also provide testimony and/or work closely with state legislators to further promote the safety, well-being, and permanency of all children residing in Tennessee.
- How often do task force members meet?
Full meetings are held quarterly in Nashville and last approximately four hours, during which lunch is provided. Members are required to attend meetings regularly and, if unable to attend, contact the President or UT SWORPS Program Coordinator. Standing committees typically meet during times provided at full Joint Task Force meetings and at other times as needed, primarily via conference call.
- Is there an agency or organization that oversees task force activities?
Yes, the Department of Children’s Services is the lead state agency that oversees this effort and is responsible for complying with the scope of Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 37-1-603, regarding child abuse and neglect.
- How is the Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice/Sexual Abuse funded?
Funding for the program is provided by the Crime Victims funder under the Department of Justice. Legislation requires in any fiscal year that funds be made available to the Department of Health and Human Services for CJA grants to the states; 15 percent is reserved by the attorney general for CJA grants to Native American Tribes. The Tribal set aside is managed by the Office of Victims of Crime, US Department of Justice.
- Are members reimbursed for travel to meetings?
UT SWORPS, the organization that supports this contract, has limited funds available for travel to/from JTF meetings. These funds support members in instances when their travel is not supported by the agency/organization they represent.
- How can the state use the state plan to strengthen and expand services to children and families?
The State Plan offers representatives from government agencies that are currently involved or considering becoming involved, child welfare-serving programs, and the legislature an important opportunity to engage children and families and other critical stakeholders in activities that will gain significantly more help for children and their families who are/have been affected by child abuse and neglect. It is an opportunity to carefully evaluate what is working well and what is not working well for children and their families affected by maltreatment, who is and who is not being served, what gaps in services currently exist, and what strategies will strengthen outcomes for children and families. It can also serve as a catalyst for much broader activities in the state on behalf of children.
- How can I obtain more information about the task force activities?
Please visit the Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice/Sexual Abuse website at https://www.sworps.utk.edu/children/ or contact Toni Lawal at (615) 782-6122 or Rory Alley at (615) 782-3977.