Federal Law

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Amendments of 1996 (CAPTA) and amendments in 2003 require each state to establish Citizen Review Panels "to evaluate the extent to which agencies are effectively discharging their child protection responsibilities in accordance with [the State’s CAPTA Plan], child protection standards set forth [in law], and any other criteria that the panel considers important to ensure the protection of children" including:

  • a review of the extent to which the State child protective services system is coordinated with the foster care and adoption programs established under part E of title IV of the Social Security Act
  • a review of child fatalities and near fatalities.

The federal statute states that the panels:

  • make this evaluation by examining the policies, procedures and practices of State and local agencies
  • must prepare and make available to the public an annual report containing a summary of their activities.
  • provide for public outreach and comment in order to assess the impact of current procedures and practices upon children and families in the community (Section 106 (c)(4)(C)); and
  • make recommendations to the State and public on improving the child protection services system at the State and local levels in an annual report.
  • must meet not less than once every three months
  • be composed of volunteers who broadly represent the community including those who have expertise in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.
  • not disclose to any person or government official any identifying information about any specific child protection case.

The federal statute instructs the state to:

  • provide access to information on cases and staff assistance
  • respond to the panels’ annual report in writing within six months to the recommendations of the Panels
  • include a summary of the activities of the Citizen Review Panels in their annual report to the federal government.
  • establish civil sanctions for a violation of confidentiality by a panel member.