Cybele K. Daley, Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
20th Annual San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment
San Diego, CA
January 25, 2006
Thank you, Ron.
I'm pleased to be here representing the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs on behalf of Assistant Attorney General Regina Schofield.
I want to pass along Assistant Attorney General Schofield's regrets for not being able to join you today. She's at home taking care of a new baby girl, born a little over two months ago. Our best wishes to her and her baby.
As we all know, 30 years ago, child welfare experts, the medical profession, law enforcement, and others were just beginning to understand the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to preventing and treating child maltreatment.
The Chadwick Center has been a pioneer in this field and has organized these conferences for the past 20 years.
In addition to recognizing the Chadwick Center for its 30 years of leadership, I appreciate the chance to talk about an issue that is important to all of us -- the safety and the welfare of our children.
As part of an agency whose mission is to help ensure public safety, Assistant Attorney General Schofield and I consider the welfare of our young people one of OJP's key responsibilities. We believe that our ability to help protect children is the true test of our effectiveness.
We're fortunate in the Department and in this Administration to have a few highly placed people who view our job of child protection not only in professional, but in very personal terms.
Having just given birth to her second child, Assistant Attorney General Schofield sees nothing more important than the health and the safety of our children.
Her views are shared by her bosses, who also have children. Attorney General Gonzales is the father of three sons, and you can bet that every decision he makes is informed by his devotion to his children.
And then there's President Bush, who is the father of two grown daughters. He understands that the future of our country belongs to our children, and he believes that we have no greater responsibility than to protect them.
The safety and welfare of children is a concern for everyone in this Administration, and we are all mindful of the many challenges you face as you work to prevent harm to children and to treat those who have suffered.
Child maltreatment is not just an issue in the United States. It's an issue in many countries and takes many forms. Unfortunately, it even crosses borders. One of the saddest forms of child maltreatment is human trafficking.
Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked against their will across international borders. Of those, about 15,000 victims are trafficked into the United States. Victims are forced into prostitution, or to work in sweatshops or as domestic labor, and in many forms of involuntary servitude.
Half of all trafficking victims are children under the age of 18. These young victims often become the pawns of the sex tourism industry, and they, as President Bush has said, and I quote, "see little of life before they see the worst of life," end quote.
The Bush Administration has taken a broad approach to try to end human trafficking.
Just 2 weeks ago, on January 10, President Bush signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. This new law will enable us to continue to investigate and prosecute traffickers by providing new grants to state and local law enforcement. In addition, the bill will help us provide important new services to these victims, including appointing a guardian for young victims.
Internationally, the United States has contributed more than $295 million since 2001 to support anti-trafficking programs in more than 120 countries. We will continue our efforts to combat this modern version of slavery.
I also want to highlight an excellent example of how cooperation can create a deterrent and enhance child safety. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the AMBER Alert program, the emergency response system set up to find and recover abducted children.
Even during a time of growing partnerships, AMBER is unique. There's no other way to describe a union of law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation departments, and the public.
A few years ago, that would have seemed a strange sort of marriage. But even stranger is the fact that - guess what - it works!
And not only does it work, but it's become a force to be reckoned with.
AMBER is so impressive not only because it's helped to save so many children -- 241 as of today's count, but because it has given would-be abductors fewer and fewer opportunities for committing crimes.
And what's even more remarkable is that its full potential is not yet realized. We're still bringing in partners, from the public as well as the private sector.
We're working to strengthen AMBER in other ways. One of our goals for the coming year is to involve Canadian and Mexican authorities in our efforts.
Just as abductors don't heed state boundaries when they flee with children, they also don't respect international borders. We've included the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Mexican state police in our new AMBER working group. We'll work actively with them to make them part of our network.
And we're beginning to work with tribal officials to eliminate the jurisdictional obstacles that can arise if an abductor crosses into tribal lands, or if a child is taken from tribal lands into another part of the country.
We're exploring ways to improve our response to missing and abducted children who don't fall within the purview of AMBER.
Tomorrow, here in San Diego, we'll hold the first training program for our ten regional Child Abduction Response Teams, or CARTs. CARTs provide a mechanism for responding to cases involving missing and abducted children, many of whom do not meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert.
Florida's coordinated effort on these cases has been a model for other states. We are now working together to implement a program that will provide a national framework that states can use in coordinating their responses to missing children cases.
We're also actively involved in other efforts to protect children. For example, last summer, our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention awarded more than $6 million to fifteen communities nationwide under its new program called "Safe Start…Promising Approaches for Children Exposed to Violence."
Safe Start works to curb children's exposure to violence by improving cooperation between service providers, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, and representatives of the juvenile justice system.
Its goal is to create a comprehensive system of services for young people and their families to blunt the impact of the violence that surrounds them.
We know how very vulnerable children are, and we know that proximity to crime and violence can have a devastating effect on growth and development. Safe Start will give children in these communities the chance for a healthy beginning.
These are some, but by no means all, of the efforts we've undertaken to protect children. We're doing a great deal, but protecting children will require our continued vigilance and hard work.
Last summer, we launched the National Sex Offender Public Registry. As you may know, all states have sex offender registries. Their purpose is to give parents and concerned citizens access to information that will help protect their children.
Until now, though, Americans have never been able to initiate a search across states. To be sure that someone was not a sex offender, a member of the public would have to go to each state site individually. The Attorney General thought something was wrong with the idea of making people do that kind of leg work to protect their kids.
So, we went to work to create a free, easy-to-use Web site that would link all state and territory public sex offender registries.
Today, we now have 48 states, the District of Columbia, and the territory of Guam linked to the site.
The remaining states are working to sign on in the coming months. Once they do, users will have instant access to information on all 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United States.
It's important to note that the national registry is not a separate repository. The information is controlled and maintained by the states. The national registry simply standardizes the data and allows that data to flow smoothly from the different state registries. And, it doesn't cost the states a dime.
Shielding children from harm and exploitation today involves more than keeping them out of physical proximity to criminals. It also involves monitoring what goes on in the home, specifically with computers and the Internet.
Today's technology can help busy parents, but it can become one more source of concern if parents aren't aware of how criminals use computers to prey on the unsuspecting, particularly children.
We are working to help parents meet this additional responsibility. We're providing more information on Internet safety to children and parents. We're creating filters and other controls that prevent criminal access to children. And we're giving children places to turn for help when they are approached by criminals in cyberspace.
Later this morning, I'll be meeting with the Chief Executive Officers of the 46 Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces. ICAC, for short, is one of the Department's major efforts to crack down on cybercrime.
The program is helping federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies develop effective responses to cybercrime by providing resources to aid in preventing and investigating these crimes against children.
As Attorney General Gonzales has said, and I quote, "There is no greater measure of our nation's compassion or our humanity as a people than how we protect, raise, and care for our children." End quote.
Indeed, what better standard of our worth could we establish than the welfare and safety of our young people?
We will continue to look to each of you for guidance as we shape new initiatives. And we hope you will turn to us for information and help as you seek to meet the threats that criminals pose to children. Only by working together will we achieve success.
And now, it is my pleasure, on behalf of Assistant Attorney General Regina Schofield and the Office of Justice Programs, to recognize the contributions of the Chadwick Center over the last 30 years. The Center has been pivotal in making the world safer for children. I'd like to ask Charles Wilson to come forward to accept this token of our appreciation.