Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved three bills to protect children from abuse and sexual exploitation. These bills ensure youth-serving organizations have access to background checks for prospective staff and volunteers, investigators have efficient access to critical evidence needed to stop child predators, and reauthorize and improve critical programs to track sex offenders.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) issued the following statement on today’s Committee approval of these bills:

“Children are among the most vulnerable and innocent among us and deserve the highest protection of the law. In past years, remarkable progress has been made in preventing, investigating, and prosecuting crimes against children. But more can and must be done to address crime, especially as predators exploit technological advances in order to hurt kids. Today, the House Judiciary Committee approved three bills that will provide additional resources to protect children from abuse and bring perpetrators to justice. Over the coming weeks, we will take up additional legislation to help prevent these terrible crimes.”

The Committee first approved the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 1188), authored by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), by voice vote. This bill reauthorizes the two primary programs of the Adam Walsh Act—the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act and Sex Offender Management Assistance Program—for five years and makes targeted changes to make the system more efficient and just. These programs help prevent child abuse by ensuring the public has access to information on known sex offenders who may live in their neighborhood.

“Childhood sexual abuse is a serious problem facing this nation, and the devastation it causes impacts every societal group, and lasts a lifetime for its victims and their loved ones,” said Representative Sensenbrenner. “Reauthorizing the Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act would ensure efforts continue to prevent the ongoing sexual exploitation of our nation’s children.”

Second, the Committee approved the Child Protection Improvements Act of 2017 (H.R. 695), introduced by Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Mike Bishop (R-Mich.), by voice vote. This bill ensures that youth-serving organizations have access to national background checks on prospective staff and volunteers through the FBI’s database. Currently, many youth-serving organizations only have access to state-level background check systems.

“As a father of three, I know there is nothing more important than our children’s safety,” said Representative Bishop. “When they participate in camps and afterschool activities, parents deserve to have full peace of mind that their kids are in good hands. Shockingly enough, youth-serving organizations in many states currently cannot get FBI background checks for prospective staff and volunteers.

“The bipartisan Child Protection Improvements Act addresses gaps in the system to change that,” added Representative Bishop. “The FBI database is the most efficient way to crosscheck potential hires across state lines, and improving access to this gold-standard resource will significantly improve our children’s safety away from home. I applaud Chairman Goodlatte and the House Judiciary Committee for their swift action to advance this common-sense legislation.”

And third, the Committee approved the Targeting Child Predators Act of 2017 (H.R. 883), authored by Representative Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), by voice vote. This bill will help protect valuable information used to prosecute and convict child predators. Under current law, law enforcement is able to obtain the IP address of a suspected child predator and then subpoena Internet Service Providers for the user information attached to the IP address. The provider then may notify the user of the law enforcement inquiry, allowing the alleged child predator to destroy critical evidence. Under H.R. 883, Internet Service Providers must wait 180 days before notifying customers in child predator cases, where law enforcement has certified that such notification would endanger a person, cause the destruction of or tampering with evidence, cause flight from prosecution, or cause the intimidation of a potential witness.

“As a former prosecutor, I know firsthand just how valuable electronic evidence can be to target predators and protect our children,” said Representative DeSantis. “The Targeting Child Predators Act will prevent suspects from destroying evidence and covering their tracks, giving law enforcement the tools they need to better investigate these heinous crimes. This is a sensible reform that aims to better protect our children from exploitation online and I hope this bill is taken up by the full House as soon as possible”

More information on today’s markup can be found here.
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