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Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. REICHERT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to also add my compliments to Chairman Camp.

Not to be repetitive, I think it is important to mention some of the fine work that Chairman Camp has done in his time here in Congress, which has inspired all of us, I think, to move the legislation that we are discussing today. He has left an indelible stamp on our Nation's child welfare policy during the years he has served in Congress, and especially throughout his service on the Ways and Means Committee. He has a whole list of bills and initiatives and amendments that he has been associated with to champion this cause, but I think, suffice it to say, Mr. Camp has probably done more than most in the last 20 years of his service here for the people of America to help children, and especially focused on foster care and adoption.

Again, I want to join in praising and thanking the chairman for his service and dedication to the children of this country and families in general.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge support of H.R. 4980, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act.

This bill, as the chairman said, reflects bipartisan agreement and bicameral agreement. So, after we pass this bill tonight, it goes back to the Senate, and this will go to the President's desk, I am sure, and be signed within, I hope, the next month or so.

This bill is designed to prevent sex trafficking involving youth in foster care. It is designed to strengthen families by increasing adoptions from foster care, and it is designed to improve child support collections.

This issue is a very personal issue for me. I have listened to the speeches tonight, and I appreciate the enthusiasm and the dedication and the focus that Members of Congress have put on this issue over the last year especially. This is our second week this month, I think, that we have focused on human trafficking in foster care.

Mr. Speaker, some people know that my previous career was in law enforcement. I spent 33 years in the sheriff's office. Many of those years were spent investigating a case that has been entitled the Green River murder case. We finally arrested that person. He says that he killed somewhere between 60 and 70 young girls in Seattle--60 to 70 children's lives taken. I collected a lot of those bodies, Mr. Speaker. I remember them, where they lay, 15-year-old girls.

We are not talking about a bill today, ladies and gentlemen and Mr. Speaker. We are not talking about a bill--legislation--that is just a piece of fluff, that is just a piece of legislation, that is just words. We are talking about the lives of children and the monsters who are out there--and they have been discussed tonight--who are ready to prey on them, who are ready to take their lives, even if it is just to take a piece of their lives away from them for a moment, or maybe 20 times a night they take a piece of their lives. They survive physically, but mentally and emotionally, their lives have been ripped apart and so have the families'.

If you were to just drive down this street and see 10 young ladies standing on a street corner, Mr. Speaker, who were involved in human trafficking, six out of those 10 would be foster kids. These are kids we have responsibility for, whom we as a nation have the responsibility for--all of us in each one of our States who take care of foster children. We place them in foster homes, and they run away, and we don't find them, and we don't search for them, and they go on the streets, and they get scooped up by somebody who says: I love you. Stay with me. I will buy you clothes. I will buy you jewelry. I will put you on the street, too, and that is how you are going to make the money to buy those things--and guess what. You are going to provide me with some of those things, too.

It just makes me sick. It should make every American sick to his stomach. We need to stop this.

I have seen it with my own eyes for 19 years in having been involved in this case, trying to bring this monster, who not only took away their souls, but who also eventually ended up taking away their lives. He ripped those lives out of the families' hands--gone. My 15-year-old daughter--gone. Can you imagine?

That is why we need to help folks. This is such an important piece of legislation. One of the young ladies who was one of the first victims in this case was Wendy Coffield. She was a foster kid. She ran away from her foster home, and she ended up on the street, but nobody looked for Wendy Coffield until we found her one day, floating in the river just south of Seattle--dead.

One of the things that I wanted to do as the chair of the Human Resources Subcommittee was to help educate this country and other Members about this issue. We held hearings, and we had experts from DSHS and the State of Washington and human resources all across the country who were directors of DSHS, and we had social workers. They all provided great information.

But do you know? One of the most powerful witnesses and speakers we had was a young lady named Miss Ortiz Walker Pettigrew. She goes by the name of ``T.'' She was recently named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She is a young lady who spent the first 18 years of her life in foster care, and 7 of those years were in human trafficking. She is now one of the most 100 most influential people in the world. She was trafficked on the streets. She was trafficked on the Internet. She was trafficked on the back pages of newspapers. Now she is speaking out, and she is the one--and people like her are the ones--who provides us with that information.

I think that we can all agree that our Nation's children deserve better, because her statement was and her comment was: I felt like I was part of a family. I identified with my pimp and with the other young ladies who were out working the street. That was my family--versus having a family that could hold them and love them.

This bill requires States to identify victims of sex trafficking and provide them with the services they need to heal. It will also improve data on instances of child sex trafficking so better policies can be developed to prevent it.

Also, on the prevention front, this bill makes sure that kids can be kids, that foster kids can participate in after-school events, which would, I think, make them less vulnerable, anyway, to getting involved in street activity and getting sucked into the life of human trafficking. It encourages States to move children out of the foster care system and into loving families more quickly.

The approach we are taking is practical. It is bipartisan. It is based on experiences from States around the country. It is evidence-based, and it is also real life experience-based. This bill incorporates a wide range of ideas gleaned from bills introduced by members of the Ways and Means Committee--like from Mr. Paulsen, who will speak soon--and by other Members of the House and from over 150 pages of public comments received on our December 2013 discussion draft.

I want to thank the subcommittee's ranking member, Mr. Doggett, who joins me on the floor today, as well as to thank the chairman, Mr. Camp, and the ranking member, Mr. Levin, for their support of this legislation and for their help throughout its development.

I also want to thank the many outside groups that offered their feedback and their support. As of today, we have received support for this bill from 48 child welfare groups, which is an indication of the high importance of this legislation. I can't think of a more important or a more bipartisan topic than protecting vulnerable children in foster care and working to find loving homes for each of them.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. REICHERT. Mr. Speaker, I will insert in the Record a list of the organizations in support of this legislation.

Organizations in Support of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980)

1. American Academy of Pediatrics (letter)

2. American Psychological Association (letter)

3. Association on American Indian Affairs (email)

4. Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (letter)

5. Cherokee Nation (letter)

6. Children Awaiting Parents (Senate)

7. Children's Defense Fund (letter)

8. Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (letter)

9. Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (letter)

10. Eastern Shashone Tribe (letter)

11. First Focus Campaign for Children (letter)

12. Fort Belknap Child Support Program (letter)

13. Foster Club (letter)

14. Foster Family-Based Treatment Association (letter)

15. Generations United (letter)

16. Holt International (letter)

17. Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (letter)

18. Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

19. Love 146 (letter)

20. Menominee Tribal Child Support Agency (letter)

21. Mescalero Apache Tribe (letter)

22. Meskwaki Nation Child Support Services (letter)

23. National Adoption Center (letter)

24. National Child Support Enforcement Association (letter with concerns)

25. National Children's Alliance (letter)

26. National Foster Parent Association (letter)

27. National Indian Child Welfare Association (email)

28. Nebraska Families Collaborative (letter)

29. Nez Perce Tribe (letter)

30. North American Council on Adoptable Children (letter)

31. NYS Citizens' Coalition for Children (letter)

32. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin (letter)

33. Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center (letter)

34. Penobscot Nation Child Support Agency (letter)

35. Red Cliff Tribal Child Support Services Agency (letter)

36. Rights4Girls (letter)

37. Stockbridge-Munsee Community (letter)

38. Suquamish Tribe (letter)

39. The Adoption Exchange (email)

40. The Attachment and Trauma Network (Senate)

41. The California Alliance of Child and Family Services (Senate)

42. The Child Welfare League of America (letter)

43. The Donaldson Adoption Institute (letter)

44. The National Crittenton Foundation (email)

45. Tribal Child Support Enforcement, Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma (letter)

46. Voice for Adoption (letter)

47. You Gotta Believe (letter)

48. Yurok Tribe (letter).

Mr. REICHERT. Mr. Speaker, this legislation, as I said earlier, represents bipartisan, bicameral progress in protecting our Nation's most vulnerable children.

So, in plain language, the House of Representatives cooperated together and developed a bill. The Senate cooperated together, Senators Hatch and Wyden worked together to develop a bill on the Senate side. They agreed and passed a bill, we agreed and passed a bill.

This bill that we are talking about today is one of those rare moments in history where not only did Democrats and Republicans agree, but the Senate and the House agreed this was a good bill, and here it is today.

After we pass this bill tonight, it will move to the Senate, and we already know we have agreement there. It will be passed in the Senate, hopefully, some time early next week, and move on to the President's desk for signing.

We are focused tonight on this bill, with foster kids, because this is the jurisdiction that I have, as the chairman of the Human Resources Subcommittee, and that Mr. Doggett, as the ranking member, has too. We are focused on foster kids and human trafficking, and helping them find loving homes so they can have a productive life, so they can have hope, hope for the future.

We need to pass this bill tonight.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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