Since 1983, April has been designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Among our agency’s most impactful partnerships is the crucial work we do to support the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) throughout the country.
In 1997, the U.S. Secret Service became the first federal agency to partner with NCMEC, who for more than 35 years has worked tirelessly with law enforcement, families and professionals on issues related to missing and exploited children, resulting in the recovery of more than 334,000 children who were once reported missing.
The Forensic Services Division (FSD) created the Forensic Investigative Response and Support Team (FIRST) to coordinate all forensic, investigative and technical capabilities in the fight to eliminate crimes against children. In partnership with NCMEC, FIRST directs information sharing between state, local, federal and foreign law enforcement to present a unified plan of response. These resources include handwriting comparisons, fingerprint examinations, audio and visual enhancements, polygraphs and more. Besides providing these forensic services, the U.S. Secret Service also conducts several child safety outreach programs in communities throughout the country.
In 1997, FSD established the Operation Safe Kids initiative to bring child safety awareness to the public. Through this initiative, we provide parents an information card about their child, including biographical data, a current photo and inkless fingerprints. If the child is ever reported missing, lost, or abducted, critical information can be retrieved quickly from their parents.
Beginning in 2016, the Childhood Smart program aims to educate parents and children (ages 5-17) about real-world safety issues and increase awareness of internet safety. “It was created to bring safety resources and information related to online and personal safety to communities all across the country,” explained a Secret Service NCMEC representative.
This educational program works in partnership with NCMEC to provide educational and interactive sessions on topics such as child pornography, online enticement, child sexual exploitation, child abduction and child sex trafficking.
Carried out by Secret Service employees who volunteer nationwide, these ambassadors take the Childhood Smart program to schools and communities in their district as representatives of the Secret Service and NCMEC. Ambassadors present these topics in an age-appropriate manner to children and parents through the classroom, camps and community events. The program’s three newest presentations that cover child sex trafficking will be offered to middle and high school students and their parents beginning this spring.
With 70 qualified ambassadors serving throughout the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged ambassadors to take the program online and get these important messages out virtually. Because the pandemic has resulted in a universal increase in screen time, the message of online safety is even more important.
“Ambassadors have become really creative with techniques to enhance how they deliver presentations virtually and keep participants engaged during this time,” shared a Secret Service NCMEC representative.
We are proud of the work our partnership with NCMEC allows us to do to help keep children safe.
For additional information regarding the full range of forensic capabilities to assist missing and exploited children investigations, and our other Child Safety outreach programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org.