Weekly Columns

As a father to three daughters and grandfather two granddaughters, I believe that protecting our children needs to be a priority. This includes improving laws to bring justice to children victimized by predators and strengthening punishment for offenders.

Our children deserve justice. We need to provide law enforcement with the tools they need to solve crimes committed against our children. That’s why Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. Named for a six-year-old Florida boy who was kidnapped and murdered in 1981, the law established nationwide notification and registration standards for convicted sex offenders, improved information sharing capabilities between law enforcement agencies, boosted resources to help law enforcement arrest the fugitives who commit these crimes and increased public safety through awareness.

This was an important step in protecting our children and helping communities prevent future abuses by registered sex offenders.

I was proud to support the reauthorization of this law in May and take child protection measures even further by providing additional rights and safeguards for victims of sexual assault and human trafficking crimes.

This legislation extends the statute of limitations for child survivors of sexual abuse or human trafficking offenses from three to 10 years after turning 18, establishes free medical forensic examinations for survivors, and ensures the preservation of sexual assault evidence collection kits free of charge.

While we work to keep children safe, the sad reality is the law can’t always protect children from these offenders. That’s why we also have a responsibility to provide the resources children and victims of sex crimes need to cope with this trauma. Arkansas is blessed to have outstanding advocates committed to the protection, safety and well-being of children during a critical time in their lives.

In Arkansas there are 14 Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) and four satellite locations that promote intervention and prevention of child abuse and neglect and serve the unique needs of each child. In 2015, CACs helped more than 4,800 children in Arkansas. These centers offer support to reduce the trauma experienced by victims and their families by coordinating the investigation, treatment and prosecution of child abuse cases. 

An important funding source for CACs comes from the Victim of Child Abuse (VOCA) Victim Assistance Grant Program. Last year I was proud to join efforts urging Attorney General Loretta Lynch to clarify that grant funding can be used for forensic interviews and forensic medical examinations for young victims.

Child Protection Training Centers are an important tool in the fight against child abuse and neglect. Arkansas is home to the Melba Shewmaker Southern Region National Child Protection Training Center. It’s one of four regional partners of the National Child Protection Training Center (NCPTC) which is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. The center provides training, certification and degree programs, and classes for law students, medical students and professionals to help improve child abuse prevention training.

To build on these successes of NCPTC, I helped introduce the National Child Protection Training Act. The bipartisan bill seeks to improve child abuse training programs and enhance child protection nationwide.

We need to provide our communities with the tools they need to protect these innocent lives. Reauthorizing the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 is an important step in that direction. Congress needs to continue to build on the programs created by this law and provide resources for law enforcement to keep children safe.