Happy Birthday Polly

8 yr old Polly - HalloweenHappy Birthday baby! Instead of celebrating the beginning of your 33rd year today, you remain a fading memory that informs my humanity as you guide my soul. Much has happened in 2013, some good and some bad, but there is so much left to do in this New Year that looms before us all.

 

2013 was not a good year for kids or crime victims, but it was a great year for criminals. While public support for our cause remains strong, political support has all but disappeared. It is as if the lessons learned from tragedy have been forgotten by policy makers and those that they represent. Unless you symbolize the cause de jour, elected officials ignore our pleas. If we can’t help them to win reelection, they have neither the time nor the inclination to stand with us or commit to our cause.

 

I’m afraid that child/public safety legislation has, for the most part, stalled in Federal and State legislatures, so the voice of the people is now represented in voter driven initiatives, State ballot measures and propositions. Eighty-one percent of California voters supported Proposition 35, which strengthened prison sentences for human traffickers and provided social services for victims of human trafficking, but we couldn’t muster enough support in two years of legislative lobbying to get the issue out of committee.

 

According to the FBI, violent crime rates have increased for the first time since you were murdered 20-years ago, yet lawmakers prefer to debate ideology, gay marriage, marijuana legalization, or any of a host of other fringe topics over public safety. In California Governor Brown continues to dump incarcerated felons into communities. As a result, property crime is at a 30-year high, and sex offenders are cutting off their GPS ankle bracelets and absconding without consequence.

 

I continue to be perplexed by funding within our industry. While the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children continues to rake in millions of tax payer dollars to support their golden calf in Alexandria, VA without explanation or justification, KlaasKids continues to work in the trenches on a shoestring. In 2013, we were actively involved in 106 cases. This number does not adequately reflect the total number of calls received by our Search Center but does detail the specific cases in which we provided services at the request of family or jurisdictional law enforcement agency.

 

KlaasKids 2013 caseload ranged from reports of SAR consultations (54%), SAR missions (25%), Human Trafficking consultations (9%), Human Trafficking rescue and extractions (5%), leads submitted to law enforcement (6%), and child abuse (1%). Of those, 77-cases have been resolved. We also certified our West Coast Search and Rescue (SAR) team, so that we will be able to provide more comprehensive national coverage for less money in 2014. None of this would have occurred without your inspiration.

 

Technology has not produced a silver bullet that will protect children when they venture online and engage social media. However, by combining existing technology solutions with good parenting skills and a do/don’t approach, we can ensure that kids are better protected in 2014 than they were in 2013. Kids should have fun with the Internet. They should experiment, email, chat, surf, research, play games, and create social networking profiles so that they can communicate with their friends. They just need to be careful about doing so. Kids should trust their parents and talk to them about their Internet experience, follow their rules, and allow them to monitor online activities. They should inform their parents if they see violent or pornographic images. These may be illegal images, and are certainly not intended for the eyes of children. Stay on public, monitored, child friendly rooms if they are using instant messaging or entering chat rooms. Predators have the advantage because they are anonymous on the Internet. Remember, not everybody is who they say they are.

 

Don’t share personal information online. Kid’s identity, address, school, phone number, passwords, etc. should never be shared with people that they don’t know in real life. Predators and rogue marketers can use this information against them. Be smart and keep social networking profiles private. By sharing social networking profiles only with friend’s children are ensuring the integrity of their friends and the validity of their profiles. Don’t reply to or start a conversation with people they don’t know. Don’t accept gifts from them or agree to meet with them. It is a terrible idea for anyone to open email attachments from people that you do not know. They may contain viruses or malware. Finally, don’t plagiarize. It is cheating to copy other people’s ideas and pass them off as your own.

 

The prevention front represents a shining star in the child safety constellation. One thing that Democratic and Republican elected officials agree on is the importance of investing in at-risk kids so that they have opportunity later in life. They agree that the best way to prevent crime and violence is through investments in early childhood development. Federal after-school funds served fewer than 10,000 kids in 1996, but today federal funding supports programs that serve over one million children.

 

One last thing before I go. Last year we also created a new fund to help the families of kidnap victims with housing costs and KlaasKids donated $6,000 to Cleveland kidnapping victim Michelle Knight. Her beautiful thank new note said, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.”

 

And so another year has passed. The seasons have come and gone. Tragedies occur with every rising sun and miracles grace our sunsets. People remain hopeful as our politicians dither in their legislative playpens. Music, flowers, the arts, love, family and everyday good deeds remind us that hope reigns eternal. However, I find it difficult to conceive the concept of eternity without you in my life.

7 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Polly

  1. While society is self absorbed in spending unlimited amounts to entertain itself and politicians continue to deny funding for new jails and turn loose thousands of felons into our midst, thank God for Klaas Kids and all the “heroes” who attend the searches and keep alive the mission to protect the innocent ones and educate us about making our communities safer for them.

  2. It was about 4 years ago I learned we shared the same birthday. Since then I have replaced the traditional birthday wish, when blowing out candles, with a prayer for you,Polly and your family. Peace X X

  3. I used play Santa Clause up in no.VA and kids would come up and hand me a slip of paper with thier address on it so I could find thier house, I would not even look at it and give it back to the child and ask them to give it to thier parents since I would be able to find thier house with the help of Rudolf. I don’t know if you have thought about this situation but something to think of for the future. Unfortunatly not all Santa’s or thier helpers are good people. Sad that we have to think like this but reality is not always nice.

  4. Mr.Klaas,I remember well,when your beautiful girl,Polly,was kidnapped and the frustrating days of watching or signs of hope,only to find things end in tragedy.My Niece,Marissa was 6 then,and we talked about stranger danger,and all the things that I could think of to keep her safe.We watched the funeral on TV,and lit a candle and prayed for Polly’s soul and your family.I think what you have done with a part of your grief has been one of the most unselfish and loving things you could have done to honor Polly.Please know that her death changed the way I ,now a grandparent,teach my Grands about safety.I also learned more on human trafficking,and realized that the abuse I suffered as a teen was that too,in many ways.It led me to continue into therapy,and to not allowing a pervert to “win”.I talk to young women and men,as much as I can and am very open about child sexual abuse and where to get help.Thank You Mr.Klaas,for doing something with your life when nobody would have blamed you ,had you choosen to move to a secluded place and shun this world.Your continued help,the reaching out to people,like Michelle Knight,who ,incredulously,sometimes doesn’t fit what people perceive as a victim,only shows you really DO FEEL for the victims.Thank you sir,for that and your continued efforts to force legislatures to see these children,teens,adults as more than statistics to be used for more than just votes.Sincerely,Elissa Bell-Bassett

  5. I am appalled that our government does not put our children first but think drugs should be legal. We all need to insist that what has happened to all the Polly’s out there should not happen to another child. What do you think about implanting a microchip like we do our pets so they can’t remove them?

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