Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Senate Judiciary Committee
and Child Protection Measures Adopted by 115th Congress
December 19, 2018
President, during my tenure as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’ve
made it a top priority to champion bipartisan initiatives to enhance victims'
rights and protect our nation’s at-risk children. In the 115th
Congress, for example, I introduced and led the Senate in approving multiple
bills to prevent crime, identify missing children, enhance services to crime
victims, and reform our juvenile justice system. I’m proud of what we’ve
achieved on the Judiciary Committee in this period, as we sent half a dozen of
these measures to the President’s desk after both chambers passed them
example, last October, we passed and the President signed the Elder Abuse
Prevention and Prosecution Act. This measure, which I sponsored with Senator
Blumenthal, increases penalties for the fraudsters who target our senior
citizens. It requires federal agencies to collect more data on financial
exploitation of the elderly—which is a terribly underreported crime. It
also calls for specialized training of federal investigators and prosecutors
who handle these cases.
second measure, which I also introduced and the President signed last January,
is Kevin and Avonte’s Law. This new law is named in honor of two boys
with autism who tragically died after wandering away from their caregivers. It
calls for the Justice Department to award grants to equip school personnel,
caregivers, and first responders with training to help identify missing persons
with autism or Alzheimer’s disease. It also permits grant funds to be
used for technologies that advance the search for missing children with
legislation is important because research suggests that at least a third of
children with autism repeatedly wander away from safety. Since 2015,
we’ve seen a doubling in the number of wandering-related deaths, according to
SafeMinds, a nonprofit organization that advocates for these children. I
thank Senators Schumer, Tillis, and Klobuchar for joining as cosponsors of
Kevin and Avonte’s Law.
I also introduced, and both chambers this week cleared, legislation to extend
the important victim services programs that the Trafficking Victims Protection
Act established. I led our Judiciary Committee in clearing this measure
and a complementary bill introduced by Senator Cornyn. Our bills, which
were cosponsored by Senators Feinstein and Klobuchar, soon will go to the
President’s desk for signature.
measures will help us combat modern human slavery, which unfortunately is alive
and well today in this country. It exists in the form of sex and labor
trafficking. Through deception, threats, or violence, the perpetrators of these
crimes will do whatever it takes to turn a profit at their victims’ expense.
I this year championed legislation to renew and extend the Missing Children’s
Assistance Act. This measure, which the President signed this fall, makes
funds available over the next five years for the National Center for Missing
and Exploited Children to continue its important work. The National
Center partners with law enforcement and communities across the United States
in the effort to identify and rescue missing or abused children.
fifth measure that I introduced in this chamber with Senator Whitehouse would
renew and update the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. That law
hasn’t been updated since 2002. I introduced a measure on this subject
for the first time in the 114th Congress. We this year
concluded our negotiations with the House on a final version of this
legislation, known as the Juvenile Justice Reform Act.
measure we adopted last week, which is on its way to the President’s desk for
signature, reflects the oversight work I carried out several years ago.
This oversight, which was the subject of a 2015 Judiciary Committee hearing,
revealed a flawed grant program, but also one worth saving because of its
potential benefits for our nation’s at-risk youth.
reforms we’ve adopted also will help ensure the fairer treatment of minors in
detention, through greater screening and treatment of mental illness and
substance abuse. This new law also promotes an end to the shackling of
girls who give birth in detention, encourages greater separation of juvenile
and adult offenders, and ensures that detained youth can continue their
education. It will give youths who come into contact with the juvenile justice system
a better chance of turning their lives around.
should add that we included accountability provisions in virtually every grant
funding measure reported by the Judiciary Committee during my tenure as
chairman. The inclusion of this language, which I authored several years
ago, in statutes authorizing federal grant programs will help ensure that
taxpayer dollars are used more wisely.
want to again thank my colleagues from the Judiciary Committee who joined me as
cosponsors of these and other new laws in this area. I also want to thank
the nonprofit groups, such as the National Autism Association, Elder Justice
Coalition and Coalition for Juvenile Justice, as well as individual advocates,
including Bob Blancato, Stuart Spielman, Lisa Wiederlight, Marion Mattingly,
and others, who contributed in a meaningful way to these laws’ development and
passage. Finally, I want to thank my chief counsel for justice programs,
Evelyn Fortier, for her work on these measures. Thank you, Mr. President.