May | June 2019

Justice Department Observes Missing Children's Day
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Matt M. Dummermuth (far left) and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Edward C. O’Callaghan (far right) with some of the award recipients.Then-Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Matt M. Dummermuth (far left) and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Edward C. O’Callaghan (far right) with some of the award recipients. "These extraordinary men and women displayed ingenuity, commitment, and incredible resolve—the qualities we so often take for granted in our public safety officers but that are magnified in these exceptional individuals," said Mr. O'Callaghan. "They truly are the best of the best."
The Department of Justice (DOJ) commemorated National Missing Children's Day on May 22, 2019, with a ceremony at DOJ's Great Hall in Washington, DC. The event recognized the extraordinary efforts made by law enforcement personnel and citizens to rescue missing children and protect children from harm. Guests included federal and law enforcement officials, families and friends of missing children, child advocates, and others who support programs to recover missing and exploited children.

Administrator Harp presented the following awards to recognize the outstanding work of law enforcement personnel and citizens who have made a difference in recovering abducted children and protecting children from exploitation:

Attorney General’s Special Commendation: Detective Lorraine Szczepanik of the Broward County (FL) Sheriff’s Office and the South Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Detective Szczepanik’s timely investigation into a person suspected of viewing and sharing child pornography online led to the discovery of thousands of images and videos of child victims, as well as online conversations that led to the identification of three additional child pornographers.

Missing Children’s Law Enforcement Award: Six members of the Round Rock (TX) Police Department, three special agents from the San Antonio FBI Field Office, and a Texas Ranger from Austin collaboratively investigated and tracked down a suspect who kidnapped two missing sisters, ages 7 and 14, from their home in Round Rock. The sisters were found unharmed 700 miles away when the suspect was pulled over following the release of an AMBER Alert and other alerts in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado.

Administrator Harp addresses ceremony attendees.“We are here today remembering those sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who have not come home, and for whom the search will never end,” said Administrator Harp. “Anyone, at any time, can make the difference in the safe recovery of a missing and exploited child.”

Missing Children’s Citizen Award: Firefighters Aaron Woods and Michael Webb of the Blount County (TN) Fire Department led a 7-hour portion of a 22-hour search across 2,000 acres of rugged, wooded terrain—on foot and by air—to find a 6-year-old boy and his dog less than 24 hours after they were reported missing.

Missing Children’s Child Protection Award: Detective Christa Hirota and five other members of the Sacramento Valley (CA) High Tech Crimes Task Force led an investigation that resulted in the arrest, only 48 hours after receipt of the initial report, of a foster parent who abused his foster children and produced child pornography.

Administrator Harp announced OJJDP's release of AMBER Alert Field Guide for Law Enforcement Officers. The guide offers recommended practices in key areas of agency response, including the initial on-scene response and investigation, the use of child abduction response teams, and search and recovery operations.

Each year, OJJDP invites fifth graders to participate in the Missing Children's Day poster contest. The annual contest creates an opportunity for schools, law enforcement, and child advocates to discuss the issue of missing and/or exploited children with youth, parents, and guardians and to promote child safety. The winning poster is the inspiration for the National Missing Children's Day poster and artwork for the following year. This year’s winner was Madison Dozier from Reiley Elementary School in Alexandria, KY.

left quoteChildren are being solicited by people on the Internet via video games, social media sites, and classified ad sites. These children don’t know who’s on the other end of that connection. It’s time for us to take a stand as a community to educate people about the dangers of sex trafficking. right quote

—Yvonne Ambrose

Founder, Desiree Foundation Against Sex Trafficking

Other speakers at the event were Edward C. O’Callaghan, Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General; Matt M. Dummermuth, then-Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General; Yvonne Ambrose, founder of the Desiree Foundation Against Sex Trafficking; and John F. Clark, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Supported by OJJDP, NCMEC serves as an information clearinghouse and resource for families—and the professionals who serve them—to help find missing children and prevent child sexual exploitation and victimization. Mr. Clark announced NCMEC’s release of a new music video that automatically updates with photos of children from the NCMEC database that are currently missing in each video viewer’s geographical area.

Madison Dozier from Reiley Elementary School in Alexandria, KY, won the 2019 Missing Children’s Day poster contest. Her artwork will inspire the poster and artwork for Missing Children’s Day next yearMadison Dozier from Reiley Elementary School in Alexandria, KY, won the 2019 Missing Children's Day poster contest. Her artwork will inspire the poster and artwork for Missing Children's Day next year.

OJJDP’s longstanding commitment to finding abducted and missing children includes the Office’s support of the AMBER Alert program. Law enforcement issues AMBER Alerts, which include any available information about the child, abductor, or suspected vehicle used in the abduction, and specify the geographic area where the alert should be disseminated. Once issued, broadcasters and transportation agencies disseminate the alerts. They are also sent to NCMEC, which resends the alerts to a network of secondary distributors that include Internet service providers, wireless carriers, and social media outlets.

In addition, OJJDP works to combat the abuse and sexual exploitation of children through its funding of children’s advocacy centers, the Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, and the National Judicial Institute on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking.


To learn more about National Missing Children’s Day and to watch a recording of the ceremony, visit the OJJDP website.

Read OJJDP’s recently released AMBER Alert Best Practices, Second Edition, which provides updated guidelines to help states and regional offices recover abducted children through AMBER Alerts.

Information about the Department of Justice’s National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction and Project Safe Childhood is available online.