Congresswoman Wilson Introduces Rilya Wilson Act
Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) introduced H.R. 3741, the ‘Rilya Wilson Act,’ to protect foster children and to ensure that every state has a procedure in place to promptly report their disappearance. The bipartisan bill has 109 original co-sponsors.
“To this day, I continue to throw a remembrance party every September 29th on Rilya’s birthday. To this day, I have not forgotten,” said Rep. Wilson. “We must do better. We must protect foster children just as we would our own children.”
This bill is named after Rilya Wilson, a beautiful four-year-old girl who went missing in Congresswoman Wilson’s district in 2001. Her foster mother, Geralyn Graham, continued to collect payments from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) for 15 months after her disappearance, during which time the agency never knew Rilya’s whereabouts. When Rilya’s disappearance finally was discovered by DCF, it took a full week to report her missing to local authorities. Rilya has never been found.
Geralyn Graham will finally face murder charges in the disappearance of Rilya Wilson this March, but the under-reporting of missing foster children must stop now.
“I want to make sure that Rilya is not forgotten,” Rep. Wilson said. “I want to make sure that when Geralyn Graham’s trial begins on March 26th that the world remembers what happened to Rilya. Geralyn Graham must not escape justice, and we must ensure that another tragedy like this never happens again.”
Foster children continue to go missing at much higher rates than their peers, and their disappearances often go unreported for longer periods of time. Currently, only two states have procedures in place to ensure that their child welfare agencies report known missing children in a unified way – Florida (as a result of the efforts of Congresswoman Wilson during her time in the Florida legislature in response to the disappearance of Rilya) and Illinois.
The Rilya Wilson Act would:
• Require state child welfare agencies to report information on missing or abducted foster children promptly to local law enforcement agencies so that disappearances can then be reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC),
• Add a recent photograph requirement to the information that local enforcement agencies must report to NCIC (currently, only submission of a child’s name, date of birth, sex, race, height, weight, eye color, hair color, and medical and dental records ‘whenever possible’ are required), and
• Ensure that state law enforcement agencies notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) of each report received relating to missing children from foster care (currently, agencies are only mandated to report to NCIC, while ‘maintain[ing] close liaison with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for the exchange of information and technical assistance in the missing children cases.’).
Rep. Frederica S. Wilson is a first-term congresswoman representing the 17th District of Florida, including Northern Miami-Dade and Southeast Broward Counties. She is a former state legislator and school principal and the founder of the 5000 Role Models for Excellence Project, a mentoring program for young males at risk of dropping out of school.