Voices Lecture Series: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: A Powerful Resource

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Wed, Feb 12, 2014
2:00 - 3:00pm
Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom

Shannon Posern (l) gives a sticker to a young girl as part of the Take 25 program.
Shannon Posern (l) is a program manager at NCMEC
Shannon Posern works with law enforcement, schools, students, parents and community agencies – and many other partners -- to protect youth in Texas from child abduction, child pornography, sex trafficking and Internet bullying.

Posern is the program manager for the Texas Regional Office of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The Austin-based office offers child safety education, law enforcement and prosecutor trainings, and fights child sex trafficking in the Lone Star State.

NCMEC trains law enforcement and community leaders on resources available for missing children.
NCMEC trains law enforcement and community leaders on resources available for missing children.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was created in 1984 as the leading nonprofit organization in the U.S. working with law enforcement, families and professionals who serve them on issues related to missing or sexually exploited children. Headquartered in Virginia, the agency creates public private partnerships to respond to these critical issues and offers a toll-free, 24-hour missing children’s hotline to report cases. It also trains law enforcement professionals on the prevention, investigation and prosecution of these cases, and offers technical assistance and education programs to prevent child abduction and exploitation and to enhance internet safety.

According to the most recent comprehensive national study on missing children from 1999, approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing, with 200,0000 abducted by family members and 58,000 abducted by nonfamily members. Only 115 of these cases fit the stereotypical kidnapping case, where a child is snatched by a stranger; held overnight; transported more than 50 miles from home; and killed, ransomed, or held with the intent of keeping them permanently. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety Missing Persons Bulletin, there are currently 146 missing children reported in the state.

More than 10,000 middle school children received child safety education at El Paso schools.
More than 10,000 middle school children received child safety training at El Paso schools.
The NCMEC is instrumental in finding those children, and it has received more than 3.8 million calls on its hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843- 5678). The agency assists children who are adducted, lost, runaways, long term missing, endangered, displaced by disaster, victimized, exploited or trafficked. Through public awareness, the recovery rate for missing children has jumped from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today.

At the Texas NCMEC office, much of the mission is geared toward prevention. Posern coordinates education programs for law enforcement officers, teachers, school districts, and community and outreach agencies. Rebecca Lake, the Outreach Coordinator, provides programs with an emphasis on child sex trafficking in the state.

Because Texas is a popular destination for sporting events, national conferences, and the oil and gas industry, it also attracts human trafficking of people for sexual services, including child sex trafficking. It is estimated that one in eight endangered runaways are likely child sex trafficking victims. In November, NCMEC sponsored a conference for law enforcement and community agencies to raise awareness about the issue and to teach patrol officers how to recognize, interview and remove endangered children who do not exhibit obvious signs of abuse. The event, held in Midland, was attended by U.S. Marshals Service, the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Child Advocacy Centers, the Young Lawyer’s Association, the Midland Sheriff’s Department and County Courthouse staff.

Rebecca Lake leads training for school staff in Raymondville.
Rebecca Lake leads training for school staff in Raymondville.
“It's a great feeling to give better tools to the professionals on the ground helping kids every day,” said Lake. “Just last week in the Valley, a group of counselors came up to me after a presentation excited about two of their ongoing cases involving young girls. The training knowledge gave them an entirely new perspective to inform their casework.”

The agency also provided technical assistance to the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice during Operation Cross Country in July, a nationwide law enforcement action focusing on the victims of child sex trafficking. During operations in 76 cities – including Dallas, Houston and El Paso – federal, state and law enforcement officials rescued 105 sexually exploited children and arrested 150 pimps and other individuals.

The Texas Regional Office also launched several child safety initiatives, including the Take 25 campaign, which encourage parents to take 25 minutes to speak to their children about safety issue, and a one-day training session for more than 10,000 middle school children in the El Paso Independent School District, which included information about cyberbullying, internet safety, abduction and exploitation.

A young girl waves to a mascot promoting internet safety.
NCMEC offers programs on Internet safety and cyberbullying.
The NCMEC also trains law enforcement officers at the local, county, state and federal levels to raise awareness about resources available from the agency, which includes customized training on specific issues and online webinars on key development.

The national office also offers a wealth of information for parents, children and organization on their web site. Every year, it runs a national poster contest for students and this year’s theme is on stopping cyberbullying.

Posern said for students interested in careers with children, non-profits provide a wealth of opportunities.

Posern said there are many job opportunities in nonprofits.
Posern said there are many job opportunities in nonprofits.
“There are a lot of different options when it comes to non-profits,” Posern said. “We need people in IT, people who can build web sites, public speakers, teachers, social workers, human resource personnel, and managers. It runs the gamut.”

Posern said the best way to get those job is by taking an internship.

“Find an internship,” she said. “Learn as much as you can. Find an organization that gives you projects you can do and not just clerical work. Find a mentor in that organization you can talk to about non-profits and career opportunities.”

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