Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act

by Jennifer Donovan

We can’t control what happens to us, but we can measure how we are going to react to it. Adam Walsh’s parents are a perfect example. Over 20 years ago, their son was abducted. That’s a horrible tragedy, no matter how you look at it, but they have used it to springboard their cause of action — to help keep other children safer.

Because of them, we know what a “Code Adam” is. If you lose your child in a public place, a quick lockdown goes into action, assuring that the child will not leave with anyone but you.

For that I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act calls for a National Sex Offender registry, so that those who victimize children can avoid just moving from state to state, but most states will not be in compliance by the July deadline. Want to know what you can do about it? See more information about making sure that your state is moving towards compliance HERE.

I have to admit that I don’t check those registries, and it occurs to me that I probably should. I could be sending my daughter to play at someone’s home whose son or husband or live-in grandfather preys on young girls. It’s sobering.

Yes, I do think that some people’s names are on those registries who probably shouldn’t be, and I wonder what being permanently branded as a sex offender does for their ability to rehabilitate, BUT I also know that it’s been proven that people are likely to engage in these crimes over and over again. And for that reason, this registry actually serves to aid those who are trying to rehabilitate by forcefully limiting their interaction with children.

Do you check these registries? If so, how does that change the way you seek to protect your children?

Written by contributing editor Jennifer Donovan, of Snapshot and 5 Minutes for Books.



Email Author    |    Website About Jennifer Donovan

Jennifer Donovan has been a part of the 5 Minutes for Mom team since 2007. She writes product reviews, covers events, and manages the 5 Minutes for Books weekly column and website. She lives in Houston and blogs at Snapshot about life with her family.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brandi April 18, 2009 at 7:56 pm

I don’t check them, but my baby isn’t old enough to be around people I don’t know…and not normally with anyone besides me, daddy, or grandma. When she is older I think I will probably look into it…especially since we live so close to a school.

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2 Melonie K. April 18, 2009 at 9:02 pm

I have checked the registries, not only to know who lives in my area, but also because I have an ex-husband who is not known for keeping an eye on the children.

Side note here: those registries can be informative even if your children are young or even if you don’t have children. Not all people listed on sex offender registries have committed crimes against children; where I used to live the bulk of them had committed rapes on adult women. It was helpful to me that our state’s registry actually listed the level of the crime the offender committed. Since I lived in a fairly small town, it helped keep me aware not only for my children’s safety but for that of myself and my friends in a military area where spouses were frequently deployed and women were home alone a lot.

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3 AmyG April 18, 2009 at 9:54 pm

I check ours constantly. There use to be a registered offender living in our trailer park, until I made a stink & now he’s gone. There are at least 30 or so kids in this trailer park, they all deserve to be safe. My girls play with other kids, here in this park, but they play with them here, in our yard. I’m to afraid to let them go to a neighbors, especially since I don’t know their parents.

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4 DawnS April 18, 2009 at 10:03 pm

When we are moving (and before buying a new house) I always check the registry, however I have not checked it before allowing my daughter to go play at a friends house and I should. Thanks for the reminder!

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5 AmyL April 18, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Lol. I checked the registry shortly after moving into my current home and FREAKED. OUT. when I saw dozens of names with addresses close by. Then I remembered: we live in a prison town. Most of the names on the list were incarcerated. I haven’t bothered to look at the list since.

What I’ve done instead is be very protective of my boys. The older ones are almost 11, but there are very few places where they’re allowed to go without myself or my husband nearby. Alternatively, we have them carry walkie talkies if they’re going out in the neighborhood so they can call us if needed. We’re also looking into self-defense training and we talk regularly about the usual child protection issues.

Given that the registry can only tell me about individuals who’ve been convicted it seems wise to be cautious in all circumstances. At the same time I think it’s important to practice trusting the boys more and more as they age, and try our best not to scare them. That’s why we keep an eye on them but try to stay out of the way at the same time.

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6 Drama Queen Jenner April 18, 2009 at 11:30 pm

I checked the registry once, but I get cards in the mail when new offenders move into the vicinity. In every case, it was someone 17-18 and the victim was 16-17. I haven’t been worried about my daughter, because she doesn’t go anywhere without supervision. Of course, walking to and from the school bus will become a worry, now.

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7 sito April 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm

There was a situation in the past month where I was told a tween I am very close to was residing with a person on the registry for something involving a minor. I wanted to check the situation out before I started running around waving red flags, I checked the arrest & conviction out and found the incident had occurred when the man was 18 and the minor was his 16 year old girlfriend. My instinct was to check the story out first; others were harassing the man — and I can understand their fears, but they were uncalled for in this case. Yeah, I want to know there’s a pedophile living next door so I can monitor the children in the neighborhood, but the registry doesn’t tell the whole story by itself.

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8 Jennifer April 19, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Thanks for the comments and input.

I agree sito, that we should check the situation out for ourselves before freaking out.

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9 Jen April 19, 2009 at 9:42 pm

I do often check the registry for people who may have moved near our home. I also check one which tells me where sex offenders work too… there are several working near my husband’s office. Though I don’t yet let my daughter go to friends’ houses, and she doesn’t wander the neighborhood, I like to look at the faces and hope that if we someday encounter one, I will recognize them. It is also a sobering reminder of HOW MANY there are out there…

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10 Amy April 19, 2009 at 10:08 pm

I check the registry every once in a while. There is a someone listed on the registry in our neighborhood (next street over), and one day I saw him in Publix. It took me about 10 seconds to realize how I recognized him…I can only imagine the look on my face when I remembered!

My oldest son (11) is allowed to ride his bike throughout the neighborhood, but is not allowed to go inside anyone’s house until after I’ve met the family. (I’d rather he play outside anyway!)

One thing I will add also is that, until my boys are old enough to follow my guidelines in public restrooms, they MUST go in the ladies’ room with me. My guidelines are: (1) son goes in to check if anyone is in the restroom, (2) son comes out to tell me, (3) son waits until restroom is empty if necessary (usually there is no wait), and (4) I stand at the door to wait for him so I will see anyone who follows him inside. Over 97% of those registered are male in our area, which is something I can quote to any woman who scoffs at my bringing my son into the restroom with me. I don’t freak out about it, but this is something reasonable to do if it’s just me and the kids.

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11 she April 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm

As a survivor of sexual assault, I am VERY adamant about keeping the Adam Walsh Act alive and functioning. It is up for renewal in July and most states are NOT in compliance. This means that the National Sex Registry will go away and felons moving from state to state will be lost. Not all people on the registry deserve it, such as situations mentioned above, BUT the majority of offenders on the list DESERVE to be there. Please write to your congressmen before July 2009 to urge them to keep your state compliant. http://www.oprah.com has details on how you can do this.

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12 Stephanie April 21, 2009 at 6:27 pm

I check the registry for changes about every 6 months – once a year at the very least. If there’s a sex offender nearby, I want to know about it.

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13 Janice April 25, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Thanks so much Jennifer for this post and for all of you for sharing your thoughts! Very helpful insights and tips. Thank you!

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