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It has become almost commonplace to turn on the evening news or visit an online news source and see the headlines detailing a terrible crime involving a child. While most of us shudder at the thought of a child being harmed, each year hundreds of thousands of children are victims of abuse, neglect, or violence.
It is time that we take back our communities and strengthen protections for our children.
As a member of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, I have long been concerned about the safety of the most vulnerable among us. The caucus has worked to build awareness around the issue of missing children, and to create a cohesive voice in Congress on the issue so that we might introduce and pass legislation that will strengthen law enforcement, community organizing and school-based efforts to address child abduction.
Recently, with my support, the House of
Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Protecting Our Children Comes First Act, which reauthorizes the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The National Center, which was started in 1984, is a public-private partnership that has worked on more than 137,000 missing children cases with a child recovery rate of over 96 percent. Its mission includes preventing child abduction and exploitation, finding missing children, assisting victims and their families, and operating the national CyberTipLine, which has led to the arrest of thousands of online predators.
The Protecting Our Children Comes First Act doubles the amount of funding available for the National Center and helps ensure they have the necessary resources to continue protecting our nation’s children. This funding increase comes at a critical time for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In just the last ten years, their CyberTipLine, has seen a significant increase from 3,500 reports to more than 110,000.
Additionally, the House passed the Securing Adolescents from Exploitation Online Act, also know as the SAFE Act. This important legislation increases the penalties for Internet service providers (ISPs) that host child pornography on their servers. The penalties for ISPs who fail to report child pornography will increase from $50,000 to $150,000 for the first instance and from $150,000 to $300,000 for each additional incident per day that the material is on the Internet.
We cannot allow violent criminals to continue to prey on our children. Both the Protecting Our Children Comes First Act and the Securing Adolescents from Exploitation Online Act will increase the necessary resources to keep our children safe. Our children are our most precious assets and we must do everything in our power to stop them from becoming victims of violent predators.