Aug 03 2006

Shelby Urges Funding for Child Protection

The Tuscaloosa News

By Suevon Lee

It was warm in the Rose Garden when President Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act, as John Walsh, the father of the bill’s namesake, stood nearby.

But Walsh, co-host of the long-running crime watch show “America’s Most Wanted," issued a reminder Tuesday that the ceremony would be “nothing other than a photo op" unless the law is backed up with money to enforce it.

The signing event took place at the White House on the 25th anniversary of the death of Walsh’s 6-year-old son Adam, whose murder was never solved.

The law establishes an online national public sex offender registry and requires child molesters update their information or face a felony charge.

“The programs outlined in the Act must be funded to ensure that the goals of the legislation are reached," said Sen. Richard Shelby. The Republican senator chairs a Senate appropriations subcommittee and helped found the Senate Caucus on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would cost about $1.5 billion over the next five years to implement the law.

Shelby and senior subcommittee member Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who were present at the briefing, said they hope to complement the new child protection law with $140 million in funding for other programs aimed at keeping children safe.

The money is included in a larger spending bill. It would be divided into two chunks: $91 million to help federal marshals and U.S. attorneys catch and prosecute sex offenders, and $50.5 million for funding programs such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and AMBER alert, the electronic abduction notification system.

More than 560,000 registered sex offenders live in the United States, 100,000 of whom have failed to update their whereabouts and are thought to be lost in the system, according to the Justice Department.