Remarks as Delivered
Good afternoon. Thank you, Liz, for the introduction and for your leadership. It is a true privilege to be here today, joining the Attorney General and my colleagues here on this stage for their immense work but my colleagues also across the Justice Department to commemorate National Missing Children’s Day and pay tribute to the recipients of this year’s awards.
Before I continue, I want to acknowledge, as the Attorney General did, that today marks one year since the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. I visited Uvalde last month with members of our Critical Incident Review team, to spend time with families and to update them on our work. And there is simply not a day that goes by where I do not think of the families, of the children and of the entire community of Uvalde. The Justice Department is committed to putting together a comprehensive, authoritative accounting of what happened that day and how we might best avoid the horrors that took place a year ago.
Thank you all for being here today, and I want to thank Liz and her team at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), who organize this commemoration every year. It is an honor for us to again host this ceremony in person in the Great Hall of the Justice Department. And I want to welcome my fellow speakers, Michelle DeLaune and Paul Jack Fronczak.
Like many of you in this room, I am a parent. And it is simply difficult, impossible even, to imagine all of the emotions – panic, fear, heartbreak — when a child goes missing. The Justice Department commemorates National Missing Children’s Day not only to remember the solemn impact that missing children have on parents and caregivers, families and communities, but also to honor the individuals, organizations, and agencies that have made extraordinary efforts to find and rescue missing and exploited children.
I want to personally congratulate our award recipients –
- As you just heard from the Attorney General, a team of law enforcement professionals in North Texas whose investigation of child sexual abuse, exploitation and enticement resulted in the rescue of more than 50 children;
- A detective from California, who rescued a 17-year-old kidnapped teen from an abductor intent on trafficking her;
- An Illinois detective whose investigation into the disappearance of a 14-year-old girl saved her from sexual assault; and
- A talented young artist from New York who has brilliantly captured the spirit of National Missing Children’s Day.
These individuals exemplify the commitment, resolve, and creativity that we celebrate on this day each year. The Department of Justice is proud to stand with these heroes, and we are grateful for the thousands of law enforcement officers and missing children advocates throughout the nation who work so hard to protect our children every day.
Today’s honorees deserve not only our highest respect and esteem, but also our support. And that is exactly what the Justice Department is committed to providing.
Under the leadership of our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, we are working hand in hand with local, state and other federal agencies through our Project Safe Childhood initiative to bring those who prey upon our children to justice.
With support from OJJDP, our nation’s 61 Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces – like the task force recognized by the Attorney General this afternoon – serve really as the tip of the spear at the state and local level. ICACs have been finding and arresting online predators and rescuing child victims since 1998. We are committed to giving them the resources that they need to continue their vital law enforcement mission.
OJJDP also provides funding to prevent child abduction and exploitation in the first place, and supports training and technical assistance nationwide, including response strategies for at-risk missing and high-risk endangered children.
We are grateful for the work and partnership from our state and local counterparts and look forward to continuing to support these efforts.
In closing, I also want to express appreciation to Michelle and our partners at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The National Center’s work has made an incredible difference for so many families, law enforcement agencies, schools and communities. We are grateful to you for standing with us in this fight and look forward to continuing our longstanding partnership.
I will now turn it over back to Administrator Ryan.
Thank you all.