The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) held its annual commemoration of National Missing Children's Day on May 25, 2010, at DOJ's Great Hall in Washington, DC. Among the dignitaries who spoke at the event were Attorney General Eric Holder, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Laurie Robinson, Acting OJJDP Administrator Jeff Slowikowski, and Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Patty Wetterling, the parent of a missing child and a nationally recognized educator on issues related to child abduction and sexual exploitation, also made remarks. Guests included families of missing children; leaders of child advocacy organizations; and federal, state, local, and tribal agency representatives who have supported programs to locate and recover missing children.
In 1983, President Reagan proclaimed May 25 as National Missing Children's Day. Since then, citizens, public agencies, and private organizations have gathered in communities across the country to commemorate the day by renewing their commitment to find missing children and celebrating stories of recovery.
"The extraordinary efforts of the men and women we recognize today have awakened family after family from the nightmare of having a missing child, and, when there can be no solace, helped them to recover from unthinkable loss," said Attorney General Holder. "There is no more important priority that we, as stewards of our nation's justice system and protectors of our communities, have than bringing our kids home."
Attorney General Holder said helping families find missing children "will continue to be a top priority of this Department of Justice." He announced an OJJDP fiscal year 2010 grant award of more than $30 million for NCMEC.
Child advocate and mother of Jacob,
missing since 1989
OJJDP Acting Administrator Slowikowski presented awards to recognize the outstanding efforts of law enforcement personnel and private citizens who have made a difference in recovering abducted children and protecting children from exploitation.
The awards and recipients included:
Attorney General's Special Commendation Award: Assistant District Attorney Kelly Miller from the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office, an affiliate of the North Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Missing Children's Law Enforcement Award: Special Agent Michael Conrad from the FBI's Phoenix, AZ, field office.
Missing Children's Citizen Award: Anthony Palma, Denultra Camp, and James Pantoja, Tombstone Postal Facility, AZ.
Child Protection Award: Special Agents Catherine Koontz and James Lewis from the FBI's Miami, FL, field office.
NCMEC President and CEO Ernie Allen cited the significant progress made in finding missing children during the last three decades as a result of the development of new tools such as AMBER Alert and national information networks, better trained law enforcement, and the strong commitment of federal leadership. "We are now able to do things we only dreamed of 27 years ago on the first Missing Children's Day," he said.
Patty Wetterling shared her perspective as the mother of a missing child and a child safety advocate. Ms. Wetterling's 11-year-old son Jacob was abducted on October 22, 1989, by a masked gunman near his home in St. Joseph, MN. She emphasized the importance of neighbors, teachers, and other ordinary citizens being vigilant at all times to signs of possible child abduction and reporting what they see immediately to law enforcement. "When good people pull together, amazing things will happen," she said.
Twelve years ago, Ms. Wetterling, along with four other families of missing children, coauthored the OJJDP publication, When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide. The guide is one of the resources most widely requested and used by families of missing and abducted children. At this year's Missing Children's Day, OJJDP announced the publication of the guide's fourth edition, which, among other updates, includes the latest information about new technologies that play a role in facilitating Internet crimes against children.
In addition, at this year's ceremony OJJDP released The Crime of Family Abduction: A Child's and Parent's Perspective. This publication offers unique insight into the emotional and psychological experiences of children during a family abduction and provides parents with helpful advice on assisting their children making the transition back to everyday life following their recovery.
This year marks the 11th year that OJJDP has conducted a National Missing Children's Day poster contest. The winning poster is used as the design theme for the following year. This year, 5th graders in 39 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico participated in the competition. Billy Joe Reyes Collado, a student at Antonio Pagan Public School, Lajas, PR, accepted the 2010 National Missing Children's Day Art Contest Award.
The event began and concluded with performances by the Benjamin Orr Elementary School Choir of Washington, DC. The Office of Justice Programs has had a relationship with the Orr School since 1991 as part of DOJ's volunteer outreach program.
For a complete view of the day's events, see the photo gallery.
To access additional resources for parents of missing and abducted children, go the to the OJJDP Web site. Also read the "Take 25" page on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's Web site, which encourages parents, guardians, educators, and others to take 25 minutes to talk to children about safety. Information about the Office of Justice Programs' AMBER Alert program is also available online. In recognition of National Missing Children's Day, the Office of Justice Programs' National Criminal Justice Reference Service has created a special feature, Missing Kids, which provides critical AMBER Alert information as well as access to resources for families and law enforcement.
Attorney General Eric Holder delivers the keynote address at DOJ's National Missing Children's Day event on May 25.
Attorney General Holder; Jeff Slowikowski, Acting Administrator, OJJDP; Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs (OJP); Ernie Allen, President and CEO, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; and Patty Wetterling, child safety advocate.