Empowering Georgia’s Vulnerable Children: GA Senator Advocates for Enhanced Tools in Child Welfare

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“There is absolute urgency, every day, that we protect these children. And we’re going to continue to press you, and I hope continue to work with you, to improve these systems,” Sen. Ossoff to Federal Officials

Ossoff, who chairs the Senate’s Human Rights Subcommittee, initiated an inquiry last February to evaluate the well-being of children in foster care.

Ossoff remarked, “What is happening to foster children across the United States is not acceptable… The number of children who are going missing from foster care is unacceptable.”

Ossoff and Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, criticized the lackadaisical oversight by federal and state child welfare agencies concerning missing children.

Referring to audits of several states, Ossoff highlighted that 45% of missing child incidents were not reported to NCMEC, and most missing children were not screened for sex trafficking upon recovery.

Blackburn expressed concern, stating, “We’ve seen reports of these children working in factories (and) food processing plants… We should not have to read more reports of children being used for child labor or sex trafficking rings.”

Jose Perez, deputy assistant director at the FBI, identified end-to-end encryption as a significant hurdle, enabling organized criminal rings to communicate without detection. Perez disclosed that the FBI operates over 85 task forces through its 56 field offices, prioritizing cases of missing children aged 12 and under under suspicious circumstances.

Rebecca Jones Gaston, commissioner of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children, Youth and Families, outlined that her agency mandates state child welfare departments to submit policy plans. Departments failing to meet federal standards are offered assistance for improvement.

However, Ossoff contended that merely having policies in place isn’t sufficient. “Putting something in a policy manual is not always implementing that policy in practice,” he said.

Jones Gaston clarified that the implementation of policies falls under the purview of state and local child welfare agencies. Her agency, she added, can issue corrective action plans and penalties if policies are not followed.

Ossoff announced that the full Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing next month featuring CEOs of tech companies discussing measures taken to shield children from online predators.

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