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Rokita Statement: Hearing on "Protecting America’s Youth: An Update from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children"

We are pleased to hear today from Mr. John Ryan, the president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or NCMEC. Mr. Ryan will give us an update on NCMEC’s important work and how a number of legislative changes enacted last year are enhancing the efforts of this organization.

At a ceremony opening the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, President Ronald Reagan said, “All Americans, and especially our youth, should have the right and the opportunity to walk our streets, to play and to grow and to live their lives without being at risk.” Spoken 30 years ago, President Reagan’s words are just as true now as they were back then.

If we are truly fighting for all people, so that they can build better lives for themselves and their families, one of the key things we must help them with is the safety of their children.

No child should be afraid to walk home from school, hang out with friends at the mall, or surf the Internet. Yet sadly we know that’s just not the case. Too often a predator is lurking in the shadows, ready to do harm. Each year thousands of children go missing or fall victim to sexual exploitation and other heinous crimes. As the father of two young boys, I cannot fathom the pain and suffering these families are forced to bear. No one can, but we can do something about it.

For 30 years a national public-private partnership has worked to protect children and safely return victims to their families. NCMEC is at this center of this vital effort. The organization provides services, resources, and other assistance to victims of abduction and sexual exploitation, as well as their families and those who serve them.

The center’s 24-hour Cyber Tipline has provided law enforcement with more than 2.3 million leads of suspected child sexual exploitation. On its own this would constitute a stellar record, but the tip line is only one part of a larger effort. The center also manages a national database on missing children, organizes case management teams to serve as a single point of contact for families, and offers training and technical assistance to law enforcement and professionals working in health care and the juvenile justice system.

These are just a few of the services and support provided each and every day. The only way to describe the work of NCMEC’s staff is heroic; they are making a difference in the lives of countless children and families. In fact, just this year, in partnership with the FBI and Department of Justice, NCMEC participated in Operation Cross Country VIII. This week-long national campaign led to the arrest of 281 child traffickers and the rescue of 168 children – besting its work from the prior year.

However, we all know that despite these achievements, more work needs to be done. To help support that effort, last year Congress passed the E. Clay Shaw, Jr. Missing Children’s Assistance Reauthorization Act. Enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support, the legislation extended our partnership with NCMEC while providing additional accountability and oversight protections. The law also includes reforms to encourage greater coordination between law enforcement, states, and schools.

As one of many partners, Congress cannot stop there. There is more that can and should be done on behalf of these vulnerable youth. Toward that end, a number of important legislative proposals were introduced that will help strengthen our commitment to youth who are victims of sex trafficking. While no legislation can provide a perfect solution, the bills put forward last week will move our country in the right direction.

Protecting children has been and must remain a national priority. Mr. Ryan, I would like to thank you and your staff for their hard work and dedication. As a committee, Congress, and nation, let’s continue working together so we can, as President Reagan said, “turn the tide on these hateful crimes.”   


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