WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 4, 2017
Today, we will consider two pieces of legislation: the Improving Support for Missing and Exploited Children Act
and the Juvenile Justice Reform Act
. These bipartisan bills are different in policy but share a similar purpose.
One streamlines a law that provides support for missing and exploited children. The other makes reforms to assist at-risk youth and juvenile offenders. But both renew a commitment we have made to help and protect our most vulnerable children.
Over the years, much has been done to make good on that commitment. Families, law enforcement, teachers, community leaders, and policymakers have worked together to protect children from harm and promote safe communities where they can grow into productive members of society.
The amount of time, effort, resources, and passion these men and women devote to helping others is inspiring. They are making a real difference in the lives of countless children, young adults, parents, and families across the country. Still, no organization or individual can do it alone. That’s where we come in.
For years, the federal government has played an important role in helping state and local leaders help and support vulnerable children. However, more can be done to strengthen and improve those efforts.
In 1974, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act
to coordinate the federal government’s efforts to improve state juvenile justice systems, help state and local leaders serve at-risk youth, and promote safe communities — all with a focus on education and rehabilitation. Every child deserves the opportunity to achieve success in life, and sometimes that involves a second chance to pursue a better path. Thanks in large part to this law, many young men and women have been given that second chance and have turned their lives around.
Another law, the Missing Children’s Assistance Act
, has helped a different group of vulnerable youth. Passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan in 1984, this law created the Missing and Exploited Children’s program. The program includes a grant to aid in efforts to find children who are missing and protect youth who are the victims of sexual exploitation. For more than 30 years, that grant has helped support the work of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. NCMEC — as it’s commonly known — is a unique public-private partnership that works with families, law enforcement, schools, community leaders, and nonprofits to build a national response to crises and crimes affecting vulnerable children across the country.
At a committee hearing just a few weeks ago, I read from remarks President Ronald Reagan made at the opening of NCMEC. I think it’s worth restating that quote today. Not only does it perfectly sum up the importance of the collaborative nature of NCMEC’s work, but I think the idea also holds true for juvenile justice efforts as well.
As President Reagan said:
“No single sector of our nation can solve the problem of missing and exploited children alone. But by working together, pooling our resources, and building on our strengths, we can accomplish great things … Together, we can turn the tide on these hateful crimes.”
We are here today because we worked together — Republicans and Democrats — to put forward bipartisan solutions that will help honor and improve upon our commitment to help at-risk youth, juvenile offenders, and missing and exploited children.
I want to thank Ranking Member Scott — as well as Representatives Lewis, Guthrie, and Courtney — for their leadership in delivering these bipartisan reforms. Because of their work, we have two proposals before us today that together will help promote safe communities, protect some of our nation’s most vulnerable, and help ensure all children have opportunities to succeed.