Steps to Keep America's Children Safe
The Rose Garden
The White House
August 6, 2002
7:35 A.M. EDT
Good morning. We're gathered here today because we share a profound concern
for the safety of the most precious and important people in our own lives and
the life of our country, our children. After the terror of September the 11th,
many parents throughout America found themselves holding their children more
closely. Unfortunately, as we work to help our children feel safer by fighting
terror, America's children and parents are also facing a wave of horrible violence
from twisted criminals in our own communities.
During recent months, we have prayed and worried with parents as their children
have been kidnaped and, in some cases, murdered. The kidnaping or murder of
a child is every parent's worst nightmare.
Today, I call on all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and our
communities and our citizens to work together to do everything in our power
to better protect our children.
I appreciate so very much the Attorney General John Ashcroft for his work on
this issue. I appreciate Secretary Rod Paige at the Department of Education,
who is working with us on this issue. The FBI has provided investigators, agents
to the scenes of these horrible crimes as quickly as humanly possible, so I
appreciate Director Mueller and his agents.
I want to thank Ernie Allen, who is the president and chief executive officer
of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. As well, I want to
thank Carolyn Atwell-Davis, who is the government relations liaison for the
Center. These are two fine human beings who care deeply about our children and
are making a positive difference in the lives for a lot of families and a lot
of communities around America.
The most recent statistics available tell a terrible story. More than 58,000
children are abducted by non-family members annually. Many of these children
are returned home quickly, but some are not. Federal, state, and local law enforcement
agencies work every day to find these missing children, and to punish severely
those who have committed crimes against them.
Today, we're taking steps to focus on preventing crimes against children before
they happen. The Department of Justice will release a handbook of simple and
practical steps that parents can take to make their children safer.
One of the most important things that a mom or dad can do is talk to your children
very specifically, and rehearse what they can say and do if they ever feel threatened.
You should teach your children how to say no, and how to trust their instincts.
For example, children should know that unfamiliar adults usually would not ask
them for directions or help. Such a request might be a trick to get their attention,
and of course to lure them away from safety.
The handbook also has practical advice to help families and communities make
their homes and their schools and their neighborhoods safer. Children should
know a safe place to seek help if they are approached by a stranger on their
way to school, or if they're standing at a bus stop.
We developed these guidelines with the help of federal agencies, and of course
with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And they're available
at the Center's web site, www.missingkids.com. If a mom or a dad wants to learn
more today about how to protect his or her child, go to the web site, www.missingkids.com,
and learn some practical advice and some useful tips. The Department of Education
will distribute the handbook to every public and private school in the country,
and that's why our Secretary of Education is here.
I urge the families to get these recommendations and to discuss the important
safety tips with their children. Next month, we will convene a White House Conference
on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children. This forum will bring together leading
national experts to focus on ways parents and communities can help shield children
from the harm that is being done to some today.
Recent child abductions have understandably left many of our families in fear
and the most productive response is to improve the safety of your child's environment
on the best information and the best advice. Through this conference, we'll
provide that advice.
Our nation has come to know the names and faces of too many wonderful children,
because they've been the victims of despicable acts of violence, children like
Danielle Van Dam and Samantha Runnion. But in our sorrow, we are reminded of
the incredible ability of all Americans to support one another in times of need
and in times of crisis.
Danielle's mother, Brenda, recently exchanged words of comfort with Samantha's
mother, Erin, and here's what we said: We had a conversation, mother to mother,
about our daughters, our pain, and also our hope that Danielle and Samantha
are dancing together in heaven.
No family should ever have to endure the terrible pain of losing a child. Our
nation grieves with every family that has suffered unbearable loss, and our
nation will fight the threats against our children. We can take hopeful and
practical steps to improve our children's safety, and we will take those steps
Thank you all very much. May God continue to protect America's children. Thank