As the father of two young daughters, I understand that a parent’s number one nightmare is to have one of their children go missing. I can’t even imagine the panic that courses through a parent’s veins when they receive the phone call that their child never showed up at the school bus stop or when they realize that their child is no longer playing outside in the front lawn.
Unfortunately, this nightmare is all too real for many families throughout our country. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, up to 2,000 children go missing every day, and more and more of them are being lured and exploited on the Internet. Thank God, most children are recovered quickly, but there are still many who never return home.
Through my role as a member of the Texas Joint Committee on Human Trafficking, I have learned just how increasingly important child protection efforts are for our state. On May 15th, the committee held its first interim hearing to study the growing human trafficking epidemic and to consider what possible solutions the 84th Legislature should consider to curb what is estimated to be a multi-billion dollar business. Testimony before the committee confirmed that human trafficking targets vulnerable populations, and often exploits innocent children living within the borders of our country.
According to the Polaris Project, an organization that maintains the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, there is an estimated 200,000 American children currently at high risk for falling victim to human trafficking. Many of these children are runaways and homeless youth, children who have been victims of trauma and abuse, or children in the foster care system.
I believe that no criminal matter warrants our immediate attention more than human trafficking, and that as a state we must continue to do more to help keep our children safe and avoid victimization. Rest assured that the Texas Legislature will continue working to combat this heinous crime both now and during future legislative sessions. In the meantime however, there are many steps that we can take as parents to keep the children in our lives safe and out of harm’s way.
In response to a nationwide movement to help locate and recover missing children, President Ronald Reagan in 1983 proclaimed May 25th as National Missing Children’s Day. To honor the day, families, educators, law-enforcement officers, and trusted adults from all over the nation are pledging 25 minutes to talk to children about safety precautions.
The “Take 25” campaign, now in its eighth year, helps educate families and communities on safety risks and ways to better protect children. To help facilitate ongoing conversations with your children, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has created free resources for your use available at Take25.org. While the May 25th awareness day has already passed, it is never too late to talk to your children about safety and ways to prevent child abduction. Feel free to check out the conversation starters, discussion guides and Child ID kits on the website, and take the pledge to spend 25 minutes talking to the children in your life about this very critical topic. Prevention works, and I believe that through increased awareness and dialogue, we can save the lives of countless children throughout our state and country.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives and I welcome your feedback on this and any other critical state issues. If you would like to share a thought with me, please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at [email protected]