In the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues, every day we advance the cause of our most vulnerable U.S. citizens: our children, and their families, who are affected by international parental child abduction. May is National Missing Children’s Month, a chance to reflect on the plight too many children face in our country and to honor the men and women who work to reunite these children with their families. Since joining the Office of Children’s Issues, I’ve attended the U.S. Department of Justice’s annual National Missing Children’s Day Ceremony. For me, it’s a chance to reconnect and reaffirm our office’s mission and to reconnect with other agencies, private citizens, and NGOs who answer the same call: doing our part on behalf of our children.
As always, this year’s ceremony was inspiring. The Justice Department commended work by Internet Crime Task Forces in Alabama and Georgia to detect and deter criminals who use the internet to exploit children. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave the Missing Children’s Law Enforcement Award to a special agent working for Homeland Security in Nogales, Arizona, whose investigations led to the rescue of 22 children from sexual abuse and opened leads on offenders in nine other countries. The Deputy Attorney General also gave a Lakeland, Florida, girl an award for designing this year’s Missing Children’s Month poster. The Department recognized a bus driver in Springfield, Missouri, who helped recover an autistic teen and bring her abductor to justice. Most stirring was a young woman who brought tears to many eyes as she recounted the nine years she spent in captivity after she was abducted from the streets of Cleveland at age 14.
In Children’s Issues, we face long odds as we work to resolve abductions across international borders. We are bolstered and inspired to know that colleagues in other offices, and in the public, share our mission for children and families. Commemorations like these are a chance to celebrate successes and rededicate ourselves to work yet to be done on behalf of vulnerable children.
About the Author: Steve Royster serves as a Division Chief who works on international parental child abductions from the United States to countries in the Western Hemisphere in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.