A Look-Back At Issues Of Child Safety And Protection In 2021
December 23, 2021
By a Biometrica staffer
At Biometrica, the safety of children has always been a priority. This year, amidst general chaos and anxiety, the safety of children took center stage like never before. Here are some of the relevant issues and news stories we covered this year:
This year, amidst a general increase in homicides and gun violence, an analysis from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) found that gun violence has increasingly been killing more young children and teenagers in the country. Experts chalked this up to idleness caused by the pandemic and easier access to firearms, meaning that disputes too often ended with gunfire.
A separate report also found that although child sex abuse material (CSAM) production cases account for only a small percent of the total federal caseload, in recent years sentencing for such crimes has increased quite significantly.
Increasingly, and especially with the disappearance and death of Gabby Petito, there have been calls to focus on non-white women and girls who go missing. For instance, children of color made up more than 40% of all missing person reports in the U.S. in 2019.
In April, we wrote about the worrying epidemic of child marriages in the U.S., captured in this statistic from a report published by the organization Unchained At Last: Nearly 300,000 American minors under the age of 18 got legally married between 2000 and 2018. In addition, around 60,000 of the marriages over that period occurred at an age or had a spousal age difference that should have been considered a sex crime.
In June, a UN study found that as of the start of 2020, there were roughly one in ten children globally — amounting to 160 million young individuals — involved in child labor. It was the first time that figure had spiked in 20 years and raised concerns about a potential worsening of the situation as a result of the pandemic.
Another issue that emerged over this summer was that of North America’s historical treatment of Indigenous Children in boarding schools. This reckoning was prompted in large part by the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves near former residential schools in several Canadian cities. It prompted the Department of the Interior to launch a new initiative to undertake a “comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of [U.S.] federal boarding school policies.”
In regards to Indigenous children, we also took a look at the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978, which has been in the news lately. The ICWA was enacted to better protect Native children and preserve Native communities, families, heritage, and cultures, by regulating adoption rules.
Unsurprisingly, 2021 remained the year of Covid-19, as the pandemic’s far-reaching consequences began to come to light, even when it came to child safety. One such issue was the fact that human traffickers, much like the rest of the world, moved their criminal exploitation more online, using the internet to target and traffic children. Further, the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime declared that women, children, and migrants were the most vulnerable to being trafficked in the pandemic era.
In addition, a joint study from several international organizations found that an estimated 1.5 million children globally were left without caregivers as a result of the virus in the first 14 months of the pandemic. Over a million of these children lost their primary caregivers. The U.S. was one of the most affected countries in this regard, with around 140,000 American children experiencing the death of a primary or secondary caregiver.
As a result of the pandemic, the mental health of children has suffered, a report found earlier this year. In general, children reported a rise in symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as behavior often linked to criminality and violence, like rates of impulsivity and irritability.
Another niche side-effect of Covid-19 was an astonishingly high number of children who were left alone in cars then being abducted in the course of vehicle theft. The National Center For Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) said it had sent out, on average, only around seven AMBER Alerts for such situations per year over the previous decade. In the one year since the start of the pandemic, however, they had sent out 40 such alerts.
You can find an overview of some common misconceptions about the true nature of the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) or child sexual abuse material (CSAM) here:
Parental And Child Education About Sexual Abuse, And Misconceptions About OSEC and CSAM
Here is a staggering estimate: 75% of victims of child sexual abuse material are reportedly under the age of 12, 63%…
Jan Edwards, CEO of Paving the Way Foundation, wrote about how individuals can protect children and disrupt the cycle of exploitation for Biometrica in June.
How To Protect Children And Disrupt The Cycle Of Exploitation
May 25 was International Mission Children's Day. Globally, more than one million children are reported missing every…
We also took a deep dive into the fascinating ways in which the FBI handles cases of missing children, even ones in which the investigative trail has gone cold:
'A Missing Kid Is Never Forgotten. No Matter How Long They've Been Gone': How The FBI Handles…
Child abductions are, thankfully, rare in the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said in its "…
We have also written on how to protect children’s data online, in a bid to boost their safety and further shield them from being trafficked or exploited via the internet:
Nine In Ten Kids Have An Online Presence By The Age Of Two - Protecting Children's Data Online
It would not come as any surprise to say that the Covid-19 pandemic pushed most of the world online, particularly…
You can find an explanation of the CREEPER Act and the movement to ban sex dolls and sex robots that look like children here:
The CREEPER Act: The Case For Banning Child Sex Dolls And Robots
Just three weeks ago, the Department of Justice said a 53-year old Maryland resident, Jeffrey John White, was sentenced…
In October, we wrote about the gaps in the child welfare system that leads to widespread abuse of children:
Gaps In An Overburdened System Mean That Children In Foster Care Are Too Susceptible To Abuse
A year ago, last October, USA TODAY reported in a bombshell investigation that a foster father in Florida had been…
We also covered the effect of Covid-19 on that welfare system:
How Covid-19 Has Impacted The Already Strained Child Welfare System
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the child welfare system was rife with gaps that made children in foster care extra…
To learn more about how to prevent your children from buying drugs online, you can refer to our piece here:
How You Can Help Prevent Your Young Child From Buying Drugs Online
A few months ago, Reuters News analyzed data from the National Emergency Medical Services Information System, which…
Read about the 2003 PROTECT Act and how it helps safeguard children from sexual exploitation here:
The 2003 PROTECT Act And Safeguarding Children From Sexual Exploitation
On Wednesday, Oct. 27, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a Virginia man, 26-year-old Zackary Ellis…
Just last month, we wrote about the laws around mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse:
Who Is Required To Report Suspected Child Abuse And When
Last month, we wrote about some gaps in the child welfare system that can lead to children in foster care being abused…
Gun storage laws became a central topic of conversation following the deadly school shooting in Oxford, Michigan, on Nov. 20. You can find an overview of such laws here:
An Overview Of Safe Gun Storage Laws And Why They Are Important
It's not uncommon these days, unfortunately, to see stories of children or toddlers coming upon an unsecured firearm at…
Read more about Child Access Prevention Laws and how they can help curb the effects of gun violence on children here:
What Are Firearm Child Access Prevention Laws?
When it comes to gun rights, one demographic proponents of gun control are particularly concerned about is children…
Read about how the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention works to curb youth violence, which is on the rise:
Youth Violence, Gang-Led Or Otherwise, Appears To Be On The Rise: How The OJJDP Combats It
Gang activity in the United States is said to have declined in the mid-1990s to 2000. But between 2001 and 2005, it…
In October we put together a list of tips from experts on how adults can recognize the warning signs of a potential school shooter:
How To Recognize A Potential School Shooter
On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Nikolas Cruz, 23, pled guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted first degree…
Runaways and homeless youth have always been among the demographics most vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking, as we wrote a few months ago:
Runaways And Homeless Youth: Alone, At Risk, And Scared
One in 10 people aged 18-25 and one in 30 people aged 13-17 experience homelessness each year. To put it another way…
Read more about the age of consent, statutory rape, and “Romeo and Juliet” laws here: