WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 4, 2017
I have three children, and my wife and I work very hard to ensure they are safe and taken care of. Their wellbeing has always been our top concern, and I can only imagine what a nightmare it must be to have your child taken from you or to learn that they have been abused, exploited, or taken advantage of. Sadly, last year alone, there were more than 465,000 reports of missing children. And those were just the cases that were actually reported.
Fortunately, as a country, we have long made looking out for these children a priority — coming together at the local, state, and federal level to provide support for children in need. That’s exactly what Congress did in 1984 when it established the Missing and Exploited Children’s program. The program helps coordinate various state and local efforts to recover children who are missing and protect and support kids who are the victims of abuse and exploitation.
As part of the program, we provide a grant that supports the work of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC. For more than 30 years, NCMEC has worked with parents, law enforcement, non-profits, and various public and private entities to provide the help and support many children across the country desperately need.
In fact, NCMEC assisted with approximately 21,000 of the 465,000 reports of missing children last year. Of the cases NCMEC assisted with, 90 percent were endangered runaways, and roughly one in six of those children were likely victims of child sex trafficking. It’s horrible to think that there is a need for this kind of assistance in our country — but there is, and NCMEC continues to play an important role in a critical national effort.
Today, NCMEC operates a number of initiatives to recover, protect, and support missing and exploited children. The organization operates a 24-hour call center and a CyberTipline — both of which provide a way for individuals to report and respond to cases of missing children. NCMEC also manages a nationwide database for cases of missing children and offers technical assistance to law enforcement, criminal and juvenile justice professionals, as well as healthcare experts to get missing and abused children the care they need. The organization is also involved in a wide range of other state and local efforts — both public and private — that help vulnerable children in various ways.
This is important work, and we are here today to ensure it continues. The bill before us will update and streamline the Missing Children’s Assistance Act
, making changes that will enable NCMEC to strengthen its efforts.
That includes encouraging and increasing public awareness of new and innovative ways to recover and protect missing and exploited children, as well as efforts to better protect the growing number of children who go missing from state care and those who are victims of sex trafficking.
The legislation will also help NCMEC improve the assistance it provides in identifying and locating abductors, criminal offenders, and missing children. It will help prevent children from becoming the victims of exploitation online, and it will provide transparency surrounding recovery and prevention efforts.
I cannot imagine any of my children ever being put in harm’s way. Sadly, it’s a harsh reality facing many families and children today. With this bipartisan proposal, we can help ensure missing and exploited children and their families have the help they need.
I’d like to thank Representative Courtney and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their help in delivering these important reforms.
The substitute amendment I am offering makes technical and clarifying changes to the underlying bill. I urge all of my colleagues to support the substitute, as well as the underlying legislation.