President George W. Bush hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Missing, Exploited, and Runaway Children to raise public awareness of steps that parents, law enforcement, and communities can take to make Americas children safer.
The President announced his strong support for the Hutchison-Feinstein National AMBER Alert Network Act of 2002, which would help develop, enhance, and coordinate AMBER plans. AMBER Alert plans are voluntary partnerships between law enforcement agencies and local broadcasters to send an emergency alert to enlist the help of the public in finding an abducted child.
The President also announced that his Administration is taking immediate action to help expand and improve the AMBER Alert system. He announced that:
The Attorney General will establish an AMBER Alert Coordinator at the Justice Department, who will serve as a nationwide point of contact to assist state and local officials with developing and enhancing AMBER plans, and to promote statewide and regional coordination among plans.
The Attorney General will establish recommended nationwide standards for issuing and disseminating AMBER Alerts to help ensure that the use of the system is reserved for rare instances of serious child abductions.
The Attorney General and Secretary of Transportation will provide a total of $10 million from existing funds to: (1) develop AMBER training and education programs; (2) upgrade emergency alert systems; and (3) facilitate the use of overhead electronic highway message boards and other systems as part of AMBER Alert plans.
Child Abduction Each year, more than 58,000 U.S. children are abducted by non-family members, often in connection with another crime. More than 200,000 children are abducted by family members who are seeking to interfere with a parents custodial or visitation rights. Although the vast majority of children (at least 98%) return from abductions, too many children do not. While there are only around 100 reported cases each year of the most dangerous type of abduction stranger kidnapping fully 40% of these children are murdered.
Runaways There are approximately 1.3 million young Americans on the street every day as a result of running away and/or homelessness. One in seven children between the ages of 10 - 18 will run away. Some will return within a few days, while others remain on the streets and never return. Assaults, illness or suicide will take the lives of 5,000 runaway youth each year. The National Runaway Switchboard (1-800-621-4000), funded in part through the Department of Health and Human Services, handles more than 100,000 phone calls each year.
Cyberpredators Nearly 30 million children and youth go online to research homework assignments and to learn about the world they live in. Research by the University of New Hampshire found that one in five children between the ages of 10 and 17 received a sexual solicitation over the Internet in the last year. One in thirty-three received an aggressive solicitation - a solicitor who asked to meet them somewhere; called them on the telephone; or sent them regular mail, money, or gifts.
Background on Presidential Action
President Bush hosted the White House Conference on Missing, Exploited, and Runaway Children to promote public awareness of the need to improve childrens safety, and to generate recommendations and best practices from experts in the field. More than 600 people from across America came to the Conference, including parents of victim children; law enforcement officials; federal, state and local leaders; citizen experts; and other leaders involved in the cause of missing, exploited, and runaway children.
According to the Department of Justice, almost 800,000 children are reported missing to law enforcement each year, while another 500,000 children go missing without being reported to authorities. The White House Conference on Missing, Exploited, and Runaway Children focused on a wide range of topics related to childrens safety, including child abduction; runaway and homeless youth; international child abduction; sex trafficking of children; child pornography; Internet safety, and corporate and community involvement.
President Bushs Commitment to Increasing Childrens Safety
For FY 2003, President Bush has proposed a 26% increase in funding for the Missing and Exploited Children's Program, which provides training for state and local enforcement on handling missing child cases. As a result, the Presidents budget request would almost double funding for the Department of Justices Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICACTF) program.
In August, the President also announced the release of a new guidebook the Parents Guide to Child Safety. The guidebook is designed to help parents take specific steps to improve the safety of their children, and it includes information that children of all ages can understand. The guidebook reflects the work of experts on child safety from the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It is available online in English and in Spanish at www.missingkids.com. The Department of Education sent a copy of the English and Spanish version to every public and private school and all main public libraries in the country, reaching over 110,000 schools and more than 6,000 libraries. In the two weeks following the mailing, the Department of Education took orders for more than 1 million additional copies of the English version and nearly 200,000 copies of the Spanish version.