NAAG Presidential Initiative Summit Focused on Child Safety

J.B. Van Hollen, NAAG President and Wisconsin Attorney General

On Sept. 16-18, in Milwaukee, Wis., I was privileged to host “America’s Promise—Keeping Our Kids Safe,” my presidential initiative for the National Association summit of Attorneys General (NAAG). I was joined by attorneys general and their staff from around the nation, subject matter experts from law enforcement and academia, and representatives from the private sector who are committed to protecting children from sex predators, illegal narcotics, child abuse and other dangers.

The conference was a tremendous success. We heard from a human trafficking survivor who was coerced into prostitution as a young teenager. Her story brought home the need to go after the perpetrators of these crimes, as well as the need to make sure that law enforcement and others are equipped to deal effectively with trafficking victims. We also heard from federal law enforcers and others about dangerous trends in drug abuse, such as the expanding heroin problem and increased efforts to market dangerous synthetic designer drugs to children. Other presenters showed how a successful undercover operation identified, and led to the arrest of, individuals trolling the Internet to find underage boys or girls for commercial sex acts.

While much of the conference focused on the dangers confronting our children, we also focused on solutions. Presentations included guidance on how to enact laws that will help stop the flow of harmful and illegal substances to children and how to avoid the types of mass shootings that have plagued our schools in recent years. We were also educated on how to conduct forensic interviews of child victims, including disabled children, so that we are better able to obtain the crucial information needed to hold criminals accountable for their actions.

Child safety starts at home, and there is no substitute for active parenting. But government, non-profits, and corporations all have a role to play in helping kids make smart and safe choices. I am proud that we were able to highlight the role of the private sector at my initiative. Attorneys general, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and legislators all have important and essential roles to play. However, child safety is too big for government to confront alone. At my invitation, representatives from some of America’s most prominent business corporations and non-profits were on site to show what they are doing to protect children and to interact with government representatives on ways that they might work together. There were presentations on Internet safety, financial literacy, safe driving, and preventing prescription drug abuse. We were also joined by organizations committed to providing youth with opportunities to interact with positive role models.

While all these aspects of the conference combined to make it a success, the highlight for me came afterward. The comments, the thank-yous, and the feedback from attendees and presenters were overwhelmingly positive. This was the highlight, not because it reflected well on me or the people who worked hard to put the conference together, but rather because it meant that the message of child safety had taken hold and would be carried back with the attendees to their home states, where they have the power to make positive and lasting changes.

“America’s Promise—Keeping Our Kids Safe,” is a theme that I intend to emphasize throughout my 2013-2014 presidency. I look forward to expanding on the issues we addressed at my presidential initiative in the upcoming months to ensure that NAAG and its membership continue to be a positive force in our nation.

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Attorneys General Van Hollen, Fox and Olens with Wisconsin Gov1
Attorneys General Van Hollen, Fox and Olens with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, second from left

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