House panel approves bills on juvenile justice, missing children
© Getty Images

A House panel on Tuesday advanced two bills with bipartisan support aimed at improving the welfare of missing and exploited children and reforming the juvenile justice system.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved the bills with minor amendments and without any dissent or debate, advancing them by a voice vote.

Rep. Brett GuthrieSteven (Brett) Brett GuthrieDem House candidate in Kentucky calls for amnesty for all undocumented immigrants Overnight Cybersecurity: Highlights from Zuckerberg, round two | Senate panel to consider bill protecting Mueller | Pentagon could roll out cyber posture by August Live coverage: Zuckerberg faces second day on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Ky.) introduced the “Improving Support for Missing and Exploited Children Act of 2017.”

“I cannot imagine any of my children ever being put into harm’s way. Sadly, it’s a harsh reality facing many families and children today,” Guthrie said during the committee meeting.


The FBI’s National Crime Information Center indicated that about 465,000 children were reported missing in 2016 — roughly equal to the 2015 figure.

Guthrie’s bill would update the language of the Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 1984 to promote both government and private programs with the goal of protecting missing and exploited children.

The bill also requires groups that receive government grants — like the non-profit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children — to collect better data on the issue, including the number of children reported to the organizations as missing and the number eventually found.

These grant recipients would also be required under the bill to study their data on missing children “in order to identify links and patterns,” to provide any new insights to law enforcement and, “as appropriate,” to the public.

The second bill advanced by the committee was the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.).

The bill would update a 1974 law that funds a wide range of juvenile justice programs that include education and rehabilitation efforts.

The bill would also phase out a policy that allows children to be detained for offenses like skipping school or running away from home that are not considered crimes when they are committed by adults. The changes could potentially keep more children out of the justice system.

Noting that 1 million children are currently caught in the nation’s juvenile justice system, Lewis said that contact with the system can severely impact a child’s future.

“There are more than 1 million kids currently involved in the juvenile justice system, and the experience can have a devastating consequence for their futures,” he said.

A 2013 study of Chicago public school students found that children who were arrested were less likely to graduate high school than their peers.