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Opening Remarks for OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan - 41st National Missing Children's Day Commemoration


Opening Remarks for OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan - 41st National Missing Children's Day Commemoration

May 22, 2024

Good morning. I am Liz Ryan, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, or OJJDP. Thank you for joining us for the 41st National Missing Children's Day commemoration. 

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25 as "National Missing Children's Day."

We gather every May to remember and honor the thousands of children who go missing every year from communities across this nation. Each year, the Department of Justice also honors agencies, organizations, law enforcement officials, and others whose exemplary, heroic efforts help to recover missing children and prosecute people who harm them. 

Our commemoration is taking a new format this year. Together with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children—NCMEC—OJJDP decided to not only highlight the tremendous work of law enforcement and others in their efforts to protect children, but also to take this opportunity to address the challenges of this work, to learn more about issues related to missing kids, and to hold in-depth discussions with youth and families of missing and murdered children, and experts on these related topics.

Today, we will acknowledge two exceptional law enforcement officers. We will also announce the winner of 2024 National Missing Children's Day poster contest. The artwork is amazing!

After the awards ceremony, we'll take a short break and reconvene at 10 a.m., when a panel of experts—including a youth advocate with lived experience in the foster care system—will delve into some of the reasons why so many children and young adults go missing from state care, and suggest ways we can improve collaboration to ensure the health and well-being of these children.

I am very excited about today's commemoration. Our events are scheduled to conclude at 11:30 a.m., and I encourage you to stay until the end.

We are honored to be joined by members of our Family Roundtable—parents, siblings, and other family members with a loved one who has gone missing. They know firsthand the torment, confusion, and emotional exhaustion of losing a child. They lived it—and they have channeled that sorrow into resources to help others. 

Each of the Family Roundtable members here today has contributed to two important guidance documents. The first, When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide—which was updated and released last year and a companion siblings’ guide, What About Me? Finding Your Path Forward When Your Brother or Sister Is Missing, which we plan to release later this year.

OJJDP first published What About Me? in 2007. This year's update is thanks to the work of 10 siblings who shared their own stories about coping with the loss of a sister or brother. 

This new siblings' guide addresses current issues—such as the impact of social media on child abduction cases. The guide also includes an updated list of resources. OJJDP has created a postcard with information about the siblings’ guide and provided a subscriber link to our JUVJUST to ensure you are notified when the guide is released. Please remember to pick one up from our resource table.

Later today, we will talk with members of the Family Roundtable about their contributions to the two guides and their recommendations on how to get these essential resources into the hands of families who need them. 

Will members of the Family Roundtable, please stand? With a round of applause, join me in welcoming them, and in thanking them for all they have done to help families endure and find their way forward. 

I'd like to call your attention to two very significant anniversaries. First, NCMEC is forty! For four decades, NCMEC has been a national leader in child protection, contributing to the safe recovery of more than 400,000 missing children. OJJDP is absolutely honored to partner with this esteemed organization—a tireless advocate for children, utterly committed to recovering children safely and reuniting them with their families. 

OJJDP is also celebrating a big anniversary—the golden anniversary of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the law that established our Office. 

OJJDP has supported youth and families across the nation for 50 years, providing federal funding to states, territories, Tribes, and communities to protect children, prevent delinquency, and transform juvenile justice systems. We are the only federal agency dedicated solely to serving youth who are involved in or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.

It is fitting that OJJDP and NCMEC are collaborating to launch a new project this year, during NCMEC's 40th anniversary and our 50th. As you know, thousands of children go missing in the U.S. each year. While most are safely recovered, others are found deceased but never identified. Currently, there are more than 1,000 children whose remains have been fund but have not been identified. We want to help name them and return them to their families, communities, and loved ones.

Through the Children's Justice Project, over the next 2 years, OJJDP will work with NCMEC, state and local law enforcement agencies, and our colleagues across the Justice Department to identify these children. They deserve no less.

Thank you for your attention. I'd like to introduce three esteemed advocates for children and invite them to offer their own remarks. 

Amy L. Solomon is the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs.

Michelle C. DeLaune serves as President and Chief Executive Officer for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Patty Wetterling is a Parent Advocate who served on the NCMEC Board of Directors for 30 years and as its director for 3 1/2 years. She is the mother of Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted and murdered in 1989.

It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce our first keynote speaker, Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon.

I am so pleased that Amy could be here today and take part in this new format. Her leadership and guidance were essential to making this year's event happen and I am truly grateful for her support. 

Please join me in welcoming Amy to the stage.


Date Created: May 22, 2024