2021 Legislative Session Summary
Last week, Iowa legislators wrapped up their 2021 Legislative Session. Prevent Child Abuse Iowa advocated for policies, appropriate funding and community awareness of child abuse prevention and support for Iowa children and families. Due to COVID-19 protocols, access to legislators was limited as well as involvement in committees during the legislative process. Throughout the session, PCA Iowa worked on shared goals with several partner groups such as the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking, Coalition to Advance Mental Health in Iowa for Kids (CAMHI4Kids), and Iowa ACEs 360. We are proud of the work we’ve accomplished to provide policy support for Iowa’s families and are excited about the impact of new legislation outlined below.
Child Care Cliff Effect (HF 302)
This bill creates a graduated eligibility phase-out program to eliminate the “cliff effect,” a situation where families lose all child care assistance once their incomes reach a certain level. Families can now receive childcare assistance up to 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL), however the requirement for families to access this assistance remains at under 145% of the FPL. We continue to advocate for updated eligibility levels for access to allow more families to be able to receive childcare assistance. However, with this graduated eligibility phase-out, parents will not have to determine whether to accept a raise in wages and instantly lose access to childcare support. This will also help families that are struggling with consistent and quality childcare to continue to build concrete supports in support of child abuse prevention.
Children’s Mental Health Funding
PCA Iowa worked in partnership with many agencies through CAMHI4Kids to advocate for sustainable, predictable, and adequate funding for children’s mental health services around the state. The Legislature has changed mental health funding from county-level funding to state funding. We are hopeful this will provide more predictable and adequate funding for Iowa’s mental health system across the lifespan. Support for children’s mental health services in critical as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to address issues resulting from trauma, abuse, and neglect, and as a protective factor against future abuse and neglect.
Statute of Limitations (SF 562)
This bill eliminates the statute of limitations to bring criminal charges for several sexual abuse-related crimes committed against minors. It covers crimes against children under 18, including sexual abuse, incest, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Child sexual abuse cases are under reported and often not reported until later in life. We are hopeful that this will lead to the prevention of future abuse by identifying abusers and intervening before abuse is able to continue.
Increased training, tracking, and accountability for sexual abuse (HF 426, HF 603)
Two new bills were signed that include better tracking of the collection of evidence in sexual abuse cases, and establishment of a training program for the sexual assault forensic examiner program. Sexual abuse is under reported for many reasons, one of which includes the difficulty of proving sexual abuse occurred. These bills will help to provide a more effective process for victims seeking justice. Sexual abuse is traumatic, as is re-living the experience as victims seek justice. Under reporting of child sexual abuse leads to the perception that it is not a large-scale issue. In reality, 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before age 18. We are hopeful that these laws will help ensure safe and adequate responses for victims who have been through the traumatic experience of child sexual abuse.
Sexual Abuse Prevention
PCA Iowa advocated for mandatory adult-focused sexual abuse prevention training in schools throughout this legislative session. The Sexual Abuse Prevention bill (HF 414 and SF 270) made it to the House floor and was placed under unfinished business. The bill passed the Senate subcommittee but did not receive a vote in the full Senate education committee. Adults have the responsibility of protecting kids from child abuse. Children also need information about protecting themselves and determining who is a trusted adult. Sexual abuse prevention education focuses on setting boundaries and building healthy relationships. These efforts focus on stopping abuse before it occurs, rather than treating abuse after it happens. We look forward to building momentum on this issue during the next legislative session. We hope to continue working with legislators to make this a requirement of school employees across the state.
Thank you to the individuals who helped advocate for these bills and raise awareness for the support needed on these issues. Thank you to the legislators who worked to pass bills that support Iowa’s children and families. Thank you to Governor Reynolds for supporting and signing these bills that support families.
Legislators are back in their communities now that session has ended. This is a great time to contact them to continue to advocate for support for children and families to prevent child abuse. If you are interested in learning more about advocacy for child abuse prevention, please contact us.