U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Remarks of Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon at the National Missing Children's Day Awards Ceremony, Washington, DC


          Thank you, Liz. It’s wonderful to join you today. I want to thank you and your amazing team for bringing us together for this 41st commemoration of National Missing Children’s Day.

          A very warm welcome to our distinguished speakers. Michelle [DeLaune], we are so pleased to once again share this day with you, and we continue to be deeply grateful for your leadership and for our long-standing partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year!

          Patty [Wetterling], we are honored to have you with us today, as well. We are indebted to you for your years of advocacy on behalf of missing children, and for the work you continue to do to help claim a brighter future for all our kids. Thank you for joining us.

          I’m also thrilled that we’ll be hearing from a panel of experts about the challenges that remain in the field of child advocacy. A big one is the issue of children who go missing from the child welfare system and other state-supported care. Teens under state care are reported missing from foster homes and other systems four times greater than average, and Black and Native American youth are disproportionately represented among this group. This is very troubling. I’m pleased that we’ll be addressing this challenge in our discussion a little later this morning.

          I also want to recognize the parents and siblings who are with us today, and who have been working closely with us to develop resources to support families. They, of course, represent the family members and loved ones of missing and murdered children across our country. We are proud to have you with us. Today’s ceremony, and our work at OJP throughout the year, honor you.

          Of course, my thanks to Liz and the wonderful staff of our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This year, we are celebrating 50 years of OJJDP history, and no part of their story has been more central than their work to protect America’s children. Liz’s team continues to build on this rich legacy in so many important ways, and I am grateful for the incredible contributions they make to our mission every single day.

          And then there are our outstanding honorees – Special Agent Rahman [RAH-muhn] and Detective Wildove [WILL-dove] – two brave professionals who went to extraordinary lengths to take children out of harm’s way. These women demonstrated remarkable savvy and determination in pursuing an exhaustive investigation that led to the arrest of five defendants, all of whom were indicted and sentenced to lengthy terms. This was exceptional work that raises an already high bar for their profession. Congratulations to you both.

          Finally, a huge shout-out to Hanna [AHN-ya] for the beautiful work of art that she produced. Congratulations, Hanna. We are so impressed, and so glad that you could be here.

          We are indebted to our award recipients, and to advocates like so many in this room. Your work remains so necessary and so critical to the safety of our children and our communities.

          We’ve come a long way in our collective work to find missing children and protect young people from predatory behavior. With support from OJJDP, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children serves as a lifeline to children and their families. The CyberTipline remains a first line of defense against child sexual exploitation, NCMEC technology and training continue to be invaluable tools for investigators, and new resources from NCMEC now provide guidance and support in the search for children who go missing from foster care.

          We have countless law enforcement professionals from nearly 5,500 federal, state, and local agencies serving on our Internet Crimes Against Children task forces. They are diligently seeking out predatory activities in communities across the country, and across the globe, and they are successfully uncovering dangerous plots to abuse and exploit children.

          And we continue to benefit from the National AMBER Alert Program, which remains a symbol of our nation’s commitment to the safety of our kids. As of the end of last year, 1,200 children have been recovered thanks to AMBER Alert, at least 180 of them through AMBER’s Wireless Emergency Alerts system.

          These successes are impressive markers of progress, and they reflect the tremendous ingenuity and resolve of all our partners in child protection. But just as our tools, our knowledge, and our expertise evolve, so do the challenges we face.

          More reports of Child Sexual Abuse Material are being distributed online and through social media, and this disturbing content is perpetuating and intensifying the trauma that child victims experience.

          The FBI is seeing a huge increase in the number of cases involving children and teens being threatened and coerced into sending explicit images online. Young people are also being financially exploited, and this sextortion has led to an alarming number of deaths by suicide.[1]

          And the explosion of artificial intelligence through deep fakes and other photo-realistic images threatens to unleash a proliferation of child sexual abuse material that could place children at grave risk of exploitation.

          These are dangers that many of us here today have never had to face, and they are being forced on our children. They are putting our kids in an unimaginably difficult position, and some are feeling, tragically, that there is no escape.

          We are on notice to lift this impossible burden from their shoulders. We must take the steps, and make the investments, necessary to keep our kids safe from what has been called a “predatory arms race.”[2]

          Fortunately, we have a rock-solid foundation to build on. We’ve constructed a strong child protection infrastructure that we can leverage to meet these new challenges. We have a robust network of national, federal, state, and local partners who can buoy our response. We have the brightest minds and the best talent on our team. And we have dedicated and determined professionals like our award recipients who are working tirelessly, and courageously, on behalf of our children.

          Our concern over the threats our children are facing should not be a cause for despair – they should motivate us to greater action. We have shown, many times before, that we are capable of rising to new challenges, and I have no doubt that we will rise together to meet the ones before us today.

          I am hopeful for the future, and I am grateful to all of you who are helping to take us there. I commend you for the essential work you do, and for the optimism you inspire.

          Thank you for your partnership and for all you do for our children and for the safety of our communities. And once again, congratulations to our award recipients.

          Thank you.



Date Published: May 22, 2024