Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
21st Annual San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment
San Diego, CA
January 23, 2007
Thank you, Ron. I’m pleased to be here.
The Chadwick Center has been a leader in bringing awareness and leadership to the topic of child and family maltreatment. We at OJP appreciate your 30 years of leadership in this field, and we look to you to lead the charge in improving evaluation, treatment, prevention, education, advocacy, and research on behalf of traumatized children.
The work you do to promote the health and well-being of abused and traumatized children and their families improves the lives of the children and families you touch, and makes the communities in which we all live safer, healthier places to live and grow.
Child advocacy centers across the country are on the frontlines. I have visited the Safe Shores advocacy center in Washington, DC, near my office, and I look forward to speaking at the National Children’s Advocacy Center’s 23rd National Symposium on Child Abuse in Huntsville, Alabama in March.
I’d like to tell you all a little about some of our
youth-centered efforts. There are many, and I won’t be able to mention them all, but I would like to highlight some of them.
Our best known effort is probably the AMBER Alert program. We just commemorated the 11th anniversary of the AMBER Alert program. During this time, we have seen a single, local program grow into a powerful national network.
Amber Hagerman’s legacy has helped recover 314 children.
Last year, we conducted 10 regional trainings around the country about how to use Child Abduction Response Teams, or CARTs, which we hope will build on the success of the AMBER Alert program, and give local law enforcement agencies another tool to use when they are working on child abduction cases.
We launched the CART initiative in November 2005 after seeing Florida’s success with its program to have additional trained experts assist with child recovery efforts.
CARTs can be used for all missing children cases and can be deployed as part of an AMBER Alert or when the abduction does not meet the AMBER Alert criteria.
St. Louis area cases—recovery of Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby
And if I may briefly mention the recent cases in the St. Louis area. I’m sure we all shared the relief and joy of Shawn Hornbeck’s and Ben Ownby’s families when they learned that their sons had been recovered.
These cases are pending, so I’m not going to discuss details, but I do want to acknowledge the work of the law enforcement agencies and others involved in their recovery, and those who will work with the boys and their families to facilitate their reunification.
I understand that Dr. Sharon Cooper, a pediatrician from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is the next speaker today. I’ve been told that Dr. Cooper will address these cases in her remarks.
Project Safe Childhood
Another area of tremendous concern for us is the online exploitation of children.
The Attorney General is leading the Project Safe Childhood initiative -- a joint federal, state, and local effort involving law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices, and community-based organizations to fight online child exploitation and abuse.
In December, more than 700 representatives from these groups came together for training and discussions about how to support law enforcement officers and prosecutors as they investigate cybercrimes against children, and how to provide resources to educate parents and citizens on Internet safety.
The foundation of Project Safe Childhood is the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program. The ICAC program is a network of 46 state and locally led task forces set up in regions throughout the country.
These task forces are supported by our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and their purpose is to assist in investigations, provide forensic support, and help prosecute cases. They also offer training and technical assistance, aid victims, and provide community education.
Since the inception of the ICAC Task Force Program in 1998, thousands of arrests have been made in cases ranging from small, local operations to worldwide networks involving millions of traded images.
Last year alone, ICAC task forces made more than 1,600 arrests.
The educational component of Project Safe Childhood centers on training and public awareness programs designed to teach children and parents how to navigate the Internet safely.
We’d be very interested in any ideas you might have to enhance the public education component of Project Safe Childhood.
On a related note, I’m happy that President Bush has appointed Laura Rogers to be the Department’s first SMART office coordinator, and I look forward to having her work with us. With her appointment, the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking Office will be able to get to work on numerous important functions related to the sex offender registry.
Meth and Gangs
Two other very important issues are having a tremendous negative effect on families and communities—increasing methamphetamine use and the increased distribution of meth by gangs.
November 30th was the first Presidentially proclaimed National Methamphetamine Awareness Day.
The Attorney General worked with other federal, state, and local officials and leaders to sponsor the largest, single nationwide education effort warning about the dangers of using meth.
We also are very concerned about possible health effects to children exposed to the toxic ingredients in meth labs, as well as about the health effects for law enforcement officers who are exposed to meth labs as a result of their duties.
Our Office for Victims of Crime has funded a new initiative to create a National Drug Endangered Children Resource Center.
The resource center will provide critical information to local, tribal, state, and federal agencies, on how to help children harmed by drug abuse, including meth.
We are working to ensure that the latest research findings related to meth exposure are available to law enforcement and incorporated in training sessions.
A comprehensive list of resources and training opportunities from across the government and across the country is available at MethResources.gov.
Combating gangs and gang activity also is one of OJP’s and the Attorney General’s top priorities.
The Attorney General has directed that every U.S. Attorney designate an anti-gang coordinator, and every federal district has submitted a plan to fight gang violence.
The Department also is implementing the Attorney General’s anti-gang initiative, which supports comprehensive efforts to curb gang activity in six cities.
[Los Angeles, Tampa, Cleveland, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Milwaukee and the “222 Corridor” that stretches from Easton to Lancaster in Pennsylvania.]
Also this year, as part of the Administration’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, OJP provided almost 30 million dollars in grants and training and technical assistance to fight gang violence in jurisdictions across the country.
These PSN programs are coordinated and led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, but they are carried out in full partnership with state and local agencies and community-based organizations.
Helping tribal youth and protecting Native American children are also high priorities of mine.
Through OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Program, we’ve funded almost 200 grants over six years to support youth development efforts, juvenile accountability, and mental health programs.
For example, the program was a major element of our response to the shootings at Red Lake last year. In the aftermath of that tragedy, we helped identify resources to plan, implement, and sustain programs targeted at tribal youth.
We also support tribes in their efforts to improve their court systems:
We’re working with tribal court systems to support court operations, improve case management, and train court staff.
We’re helping tribal courts create diversion and alternative sentencing programs that address the causes of criminal behavior.
And we’re working to establish intertribal court systems.
We’re also helping tribes establish juvenile and mental health programs, victim assistance programs, and programs that help tribes prevent crimes associated with drugs and alcohol.
We’re providing assistance to improve their capacity for managing sex offenders.
And we’re helping them to build the infrastructure they need to become part of our national AMBER Alert network.
A moment ago, I mentioned the shootings at Red Lake High School. Addressing the problem of school violence is another area in which we’ve been active.
OJP is involved in several school violence prevention efforts. Our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention supports the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence, which is a national resource for developing strategies to combat school violence.
Our National Institute of Justice is working to develop, test, and evaluate school safety technologies, such as eye-scanning devices, which have been pilot-tested in three New Jersey schools.
We’re also working to strengthen the link between schools and law enforcement. A training program for school resource officers and a training initiative targeting teachers, parents, students, and law enforcement personnel are intended to help create safe school environments.
And we recently released our annual study of school crime indicators, which we published jointly with the Department of Education.
Boys and Girls Clubs and HAY
We’re working in many other ways to support youth safety and development. We know that supporting youth and their families benefits all of us, and our partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs provides mentors and safe havens for young people.
I recently visited THEARC, also know as the Town Hall Education Arts and Recreation Campus in southeast Washington, DC.
This center houses the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and other groups dedicated to helping the families in this community build a better quality of life. In addition to offering a “home away from home” for the neighborhood’s children and offering dance classes, music instruction, and academics, the center provides entertainment because it is the local movie theater--there isn’t any other theater in the area.
We’re also part of the First Lady’s Helping America’s Youth Initiative.
We helped to develop a HAY community guide that offers tips for communities on building partnerships and assessing needs and resources.
You can find the guide at HelpingAmericasYouth.gov.
Now, I’d like to change our focus and talk about an international issue that concerns all of us.
When we think of a global marketplace, we usually think of trade in the commodities that advance economic, political, and social progress – science, technology, and medicine, for example. We generally do not consider international commerce as an avenue for human exploitation and degradation.
Sadly, an illicit market powered quite literally by the sweat and blood of innocent victims is thriving, and it has found its way to our shores.
Every year, between 600,000 and 800,000 people are transported across international borders to be systematically abused, sexually exploited, and brutalized. As many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States, where they are forced into prostitution, sweatshops, and domestic servitude. Most of these victims are women and children. Half are under the age of 18.
In October, we held a national conference to address the atrocity of human trafficking. Hundreds of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates, and others came together in New Orleans to discuss our progress in fighting this form of modern day slavery and to develop strategies for continuing that fight.
At the conference, we announced funding to support anti-trafficking task forces that will root out trafficking enterprises and provide much-needed services to victims.
International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children Conference
I was honored to travel with First Lady Laura Bush two weeks ago to attend the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children Conference in Paris.
The conference was convened by Madame Chirac, the wife of the President of France, to discuss how to protect children around the world from child pornography, pedophilia, and other forms of maltreatment.
In her remarks in Paris, Mrs. Bush stressed the President’s commitment to Project Safe Childhood, our initiative to keep children safe when they are on the Internet.
Mrs. Bush also outlined how we in the United States all work together to recover missing children. We rely on the public to respond to AMBER Alerts and information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and our federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies cooperate with each other to recover missing children.
In her conclusion, Mrs. Bush called for continued international cooperation to protect children. It’s not just missing children that need our help.
To quote Mrs. Bush, “All governments must do their part to end global threats to children, because the abuse of a child anywhere is an offense to civilized people everywhere.”
I’ve touched on many important topics, but the thought that I want to leave with you is that we couldn’t address any of these issues without your support and commitment. You all have been valued partners in these efforts.
Again, I want to congratulate the Chadwick Center on its 30 years of leadership in this important area, and each of you for your contribution to making the world a better place for our children.