NCMEC CyberTipline & Training Program // By Sam Solakyan

NMEC Cyber Tipline

It’s interesting how our perceptions change over time.  As a kid I can recall thinking that my parents — sticklers for curfews and always insistent on knowing where I was going, what I was doing, and with whom — were too overprotective (although back then I probably used the word “uncool”).  As an adult, I’m aware of the dangers that lurk around every corner and threaten our children every day, and I’ve come to appreciate the commitment that my parents made in order to keep me safe.  And as a father of two children, I’m actually more overprotective and uncool than my parents ever were.

Having a personal appreciation for and interest in protecting children led me to volunteer with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), an organization fighting to keep children safer from abduction and sexual exploitation.  Through my time with the NCMEC I’ve met some truly remarkable people — both law enforcement officials and families who have endured great hardship, having been personally impacted by the heinous actions of sexual predators.

Witnessing firsthand the work being done by the NCMEC, along with the strength and courage of those affected by abduction and sexual exploitation, inspired me to want to do more.  Specifically, something that would provide a definitive benefit to the NCMEC’s mission and positively impact the Los Angeles community.

In an effort to make a tangible contribution to the NCMEC, I’m sponsoring a training and development program for local law enforcement officials at the Museum of Tolerance from January 27 – 31.  The training will feature specialists in the field of abduction prevention and recovery teaching local law enforcement personnel the most sophisticated methods and introducing them to the most advanced resources available to help protect children as well as monitor and track sexual predators.

This training, along with NCMEC initiatives such as a nationwide network that aids in the response and recovery of missing children and the CyberTipline that utilizes a volunteer force of retired law enforcement officers to assist in their search, ensures that law enforcement tactics evolve ahead of the criminals.  We all want children to be protected, and keeping law enforcement better equipped and more advanced than the predators is a major step in making that happen. Such proactive initiatives have helped the NCMEC facilitate the recovery of more than 188,000 children.

I’m excited about the training program, and in speaking to law enforcement officials they have echoed that sentiment, acknowledging that advanced resources can only help aid in their efforts to protect children. But I hope this training program is only the beginning.

What’s taking place here in Los Angeles can easily be expanded, with the help of community members, to other major cities, and eventually nationwide. The ultimate goal is to help law enforcement protect all children, which is only possible via expansion of the program. I’m honored and humbled to be a part of an organization that is protecting children and their families from potential tragedy. I hope you’ll join me in furthering the cause of the NCMEC, here in Los Angeles and throughout the nation.

To learn more about the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and what you can do to get involved and help sponsor a training program in your area, please visit their website.

// Sam Solakyan

Sam Solakyan Joins the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Board

National Center For Missing and Exploited Children Logo

Hey readers! I hope your holidays were enjoyable and your new year is even better. Today I want to share some really exciting news with you. Recently I was appointed to the Board of Directors for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The NCMEC is an incredible organization that devotes itself to the rescue of missing and sexually exploited children. For the last thirty years they’ve made huge strides in the fight against child abduction and exploitation, and I am thrilled to be a part of that fight. If that wasn’t exciting enough there’s even more. On January 27th – 31st I will be hosting a law enforcement training course for the NCMEC at the Museum of Tolerance.

Now more than ever it is crucial that law enforcement learn the latest skills and techniques to combat predators and fight the growing crisis of child sex trafficking. As our society develops greater technology, we are also opening up new opportunities for criminals to perpetrate unforgivable crimes against children. Predators have evolved over the past decade, becoming more difficult to catch as their methods become more sophisticated. That is not just a statement of opinion. According to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, documented cases of child solicitation via the Internet have grown 230 percent and reported incidents of child sex trafficking have increased by one thousand-percent. It is imperative that those who are fighting to save the innocent victims of these crimes be adequately prepared because the criminals certainly are.

For this intensive new class, the participating police officers and law enforcement professionals will learn from specialists in the field and gain the latest knowledge and tools that will help them in the war against child sex trafficking. Through advanced understanding of state-of-the-art technology and insight into the most innovative techniques of the field, we will equip them to stay ahead of those committing these heinous acts and make sure all of our children can grow up safe and free of fear. I’m very excited about these new developments and can’t wait to see what’s going to come from them. Keep reading, friends. I’ll keep you posted.

// Sam Solakyan

Sam Solakyan on The Failure of California’s Foster Care System

Child Asking for Help

Abusive and self-serving treatment of children is one of the most abhorrent acts imaginable, particularly in an environment intended to provide safety and security such as foster care. 27 years ago, California altered its legislation, privatizing a portion of foster care in an effort to cut costs and ostensibly provide improved care for children in the process. 27 years later, it is apparent that the introduction of privatized institutions was quite simply one of the biggest mistakes the system could have made.

Appalling cases of abuse have been consistently reported throughout the privatized foster care systems in California. Some of the uncovered cases read like a Hollywood script for a disturbing horror film. A December article in the Los Angeles Times exposed instances including children beaten with belts, emotionally traumatized by threats, and even sexually molested by their foster parents, and found that “those living in homes run by private agencies were about a third more likely to be the victims of serious physical, emotional or sexual abuse than children in state-supervised foster family homes.” Additionally, “[Two children] were found barefoot in January, huddled under a blanket against the biting High Desert winter cold, two kids on the run from a former foster mother, who had bound their hands with zip-ties and beat them.

Without question, California’s privatized foster care system is now more expensive and more dangerous than the previous government-run homes it replaced. In Los Angeles County, four children have been killed directly as a result of abuse and/or neglect by their foster parents. Disgraceful circumstances like these are occurring because of an almost non-existent screening process, which further contributes to the issue by approving even convicted criminals as foster parents. What’s more appalling is the lack of oversight and failure to discipline derelict agencies. The foster care system is so poorly monitored and maintained that even agencies and individuals with a history of abuse are provided the right to care for children. Reports of abuse are virtually ignored by county social workers. The system’s desperation has created an approval process that is about as painless as getting approved for insurance.

Roughly 60,000 children end up in California’s foster care system because of abandonment, neglect or abuse. The majority will come to live with a relative, but those without such a luxury will end up in foster homes that are either privately owned or run by the state government. It is imperative that every Californian takes notice to what has resulted from privatization.

I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I wish to throw stones or unfairly criticize the government. The truth is, there are myriad hard working individuals devoted to the herculean task that is protecting our children and placing them in stable foster care environments. But from a personal standpoint, I feel that raising awareness is a critical first step toward imposing proper allocation of time, money and resources to fix this broken system. Simply being informed of the current state of foster care can completely alter one’s perspective.

Through volunteering with Covenant House California, a non-profit agency dedicated to helping at-risk homeless youth living on the streets, I’ve gained a newfound perspective on the realities of the foster care system through shared first-hand experiences. During Covenant House’s annual Sleep Out this past November, when local business leaders spent one night sleeping on the streets in solidarity with homeless youth, I had an opportunity to interact with several homeless kids, many of whom had lived in foster homes.

It's Time We Stopped Hiding Child Abuse

Each had an unfortunate and often tragic story of their foster care experience, and each turned to living on the streets as a preferred option to living in a foster home. It’s easy to read about the failing foster care system in the newspaper and feel bad. It’s also easy to write a blog proclaiming what is wrong with foster care. But it becomes personal when you experience first-hand accounts from individuals who have lived through it. That, for me, is why informing the public of the issues at hand is so important.

What is happening to our children is intolerable, and in order to enact change we must all work to call attention to the issue in the hope of garnering support for increased oversight, de-privatization, and a tested screening process that ensures children in need of homes find foster parents with the best of intentions. All children, particularly those in need, deserve nothing less.

// Sam Solakyan