Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Conclusion of the Presentation of the Final Report of the Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence
Thank you, Melodee. And thank you all for your thoughtful questions and commentary.
This has been an important discussion. I’m confident that it marks the opening of a new chapter in what will continue to be a robust, national conversation about the challenges our children face – and what we can do to address and overcome them.
That’s why I’d like to close today’s meeting with a promise: that the 56 recommendations included in this report will not be shelved. They will not be set aside. They will be taken into careful consideration and, wherever possible, used as the basis for action – and as a blueprint for strengthening our robust anti-youth violence work that’s already underway.
This report is a central part of the Department’s broader efforts to collect information, solicit expert guidance, and formulate proactive strategies for addressing children’s exposure to violence. Its findings are consistent with, and complementary to, another recent report – focused on exposure to domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault – that was released by the National Advisory Committee for the Office on Violence Against Women.
I’d like to thank Joe Torre for his leadership on both of these important committees. And I look forward to working with all of our Task Force members, Coordinating Council agencies, and Justice Department components in order to take these efforts to a new level.
Already, I’m pleased to say that we’re in a good position to address recommendations like the Task Force’s call to improve coordination across agencies – and particularly with our colleagues in the Department of Health and Human Services. We’re prepared to work with state officials, law enforcement leaders, and academic institutions to develop strategies for becoming smarter – as well as tougher – on crime; to enhance our understanding of the unique challenges that are often faced by children in American Indian and Alaska Native communities; and to continue implementing evidence-based approaches for providing treatment and services to at-risk young people.
We stand ready – as you suggest – to identify ways to strengthen interagency relationships, and to engage with senior leaders in the White House, across the Administration, and in the private sector and nonprofit community. In fact, this is something that the Office of Justice Programs has already done quite successfully on a number of other fronts. And we’re eager to build on the existing efforts that are already in place across the country.
This past year, the COPS Office and OJJDP came together to fund an innovative partnership between the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Yale Child Study Center – which will help to equip front-line practitioners with cutting-edge tools and resources; to formulate new policies and procedures for confronting violence in our communities; and to refine existing models for training law enforcement on how to respond to children exposed to violence. In addition, we’ve begun to consider new avenues for collaboration with allies far beyond government – to take this issue to the states, and to raise public consciousness about the challenges facing children exposed to violence.
But all of this is only the beginning. In recent years, the Justice Department has also helped to develop the U.S. government’s first-ever National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. Alongside the FBI, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and a range of federal and state authorities, we’re working comprehensively to prevent not only violence but sexual exploitation. And earlier this month, I traveled to Belgium to join leaders from 49 countries in launching a Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online – so we can extend our reach, and our support for at-risk young people, around the world.
As a central part of this comprehensive work, the findings of this Task Force will play a critical role in guiding and informing these and other national efforts for years to come. They will help to ensure that policymakers, criminal justice professionals, social service providers, and members of the public will continue to regard this work as far more than a professional obligation – but as a moral calling.
In so many ways, our country’s future will be defined – and our progress determined – by our ability to rise to this challenge, and our willingness to fulfill our obligations to America’s youth. The priorities that we’ve discussed at today’s meeting, the recommendations we’ve just reviewed, and the conversations we’ll continue to advance – are what will allow the next generation of leaders to rise above current threats and obstacles, to realize their potential, and to seize tomorrow’s opportunities.
Although I recognize that making the progress we seek – and that our children deserve – will never be easy, as I look around this room, I can’t help but feel optimistic about where our collective efforts will lead us from here. And I’m encouraged about the record of success we’ve built – and about all that we’ll be able to accomplish together in the months and years ahead.
This morning, as we recommit ourselves to this work, and consider ways to act on the findings you’ve just presented, I want you all to know that I’m not only grateful for your partnership – and leadership – in carrying this work into the future: I’m counting on each and every one of you. I’m proud to join you in pledging the Justice Department’s firm commitment, and my own best efforts, to advancing these priorities. And I’m confident that – if we continue to work together – the world we imagine today can become a reality for all of our kids in the very near future.
Once again, I’d like to thank the Task Force, fellow members of the Council, my colleagues in the Department, and all of our friends and allies in the audience for your attention, your insights, and your inspiring commitment to this work. I know many of the Task Force members who invested themselves so deeply in producing this report regard it as a labor of love. And I want to assure you, as we move forward, that it will serve not just as a basis for further study – but also as a resounding call to action.
At this time, I will turn things over to our Designated Federal Official, Robin Delany-Shabazz.