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Senate Committee Approves Measures on the Well-Being of Children

On May 22, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed several measures on the protection and well-being of children. The committee approved, by unanimous consent, the Child Protection Improvements Act (S. 2756). The committee also approved, by unanimous consent, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Protection Act (S. 2982) and the Drug Endangered Children Act (S. 1210).

Child Protection Improvements Act

Sponsored by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), the Child Protection Improvements Act (S. 2756) would better enable the private sector to learn from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) whether potential employees or volunteers who might interact with children have criminal histories. S. 2756 would amend and make permanent the PROTECT Act (P.L. 108-21), a pilot program to prevent child abduction and the sexual exploitation of children. The current program expires on July 30.

During consideration of the bill, the committee approved, by unanimous consent, a substitute by Sen. Biden that made several changes to the bill, including the removal of language that would have authorized the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to make a “fitness determination” on individuals seeking employment or volunteer positions based on both FBI and state agency data. The substitute would require that applicants who undergo background checks receive copies of their criminal histories automatically. The original version of the bill would have allowed subjects of background checks to acquire a copy of their criminal history report from the FBI and to challenge its accuracy.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Protection Act

The Runaway Homeless Youth Protection Act (S. 2982) would reauthorize (P.L. 93-415), a program that supports state and community efforts to assist homeless youths. The program provides funding for street outreach, transitional care, and crisis intervention. The current authorization expires at the end of FY2008. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the issue on April 29.

The measure would authorize $150 million for FY2009 and additional funds as necessary through FY2013. Current law awards every state a grant to provide housing and crisis services, such as counseling and testing for sexually transmitted diseases for runaway and homeless youth. S. 2982 would double the minimum state funding to $200,000 per state. The measure also would authorize an additional $3 million in FY2009 and such funds as needed in later years to promote a homeless youth awareness campaign to prevent children from running away.

During consideration of S. 2982, the committee approved, by unanimous consent, a substitute amendment by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill’s sponsor, which would direct the Government Accountability Office to examine the process by which organizations apply for the grants.

Drug Endangered Children Act

Sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Drug Endangered Children Act (S. 1210) would extend the Drug Endangered Children (DEC) program, authorized by the USA Patriot Improvement Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-177). The House approved its version of the bill, H.R. 1199, on September 24 (see The Source, 9/28/07). The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure on July 25 (see The Source, 7/27/07).

S. 1210 would authorize $20 million annually for FY2008 and FY2009 for programs to move children from homes where drugs are manufactured, distributed, dispensed, or used.

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