How we began and the need for transition...
On Oct. 22, 1989, 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted from a group of three boys by a masked gunman. To date, he has never been found and his case remains open. In the flash of precious moments, an unthinkable act occurred that has left an indelible scar on the hearts and minds of Jacob's family, friends and the community.
Many of those same people, including Jacob's parents, decided to turn their anger, sadness and fear into a groundswell of action to protect other children. In 1990, Jacob Wetterling Foundation (JWF) was formed by Jerry and Patty Wetterling along with many committed members in the community. Their mission was to educate the public about who takes children, how they do it and what each of us can do to stop it. They turned their pain into action to help innocent children.
Today, people often remark, "I know where I was when Jacob was taken. I remember what I was doing or wearing. I remember how it made me feel. I've never stopped wondering what happened to that little boy." That defining moment in time continues to impact people throughout Minnesota, Jacob's home state and in nearly every corner of the world.
Since 1989, many things have changed within our families, community and the world at large. First, came the fax machine, then the Internet, cell phones, two-parent working families and eventually camera phones and iPods. It's no longer a "Father Knows Best" or "Donna Reed Show" society where there's always a happy ending. Over time, our society has become highly sexualized in what we watch on television, play in video games, see in the media or witness during all types of daily entertainment or interactions.
The public began to ask for laws that would help supervise and rehabilitate convicted sex offenders, so JWF responded by advocating to pass Jacob's Law in Minnesota and throughout the United States. The public needed a missing child emergency response system, so JWF responded, helping to launch the A.M.B.E.R. Plan in Minnesota and at a national level, used in the most severe cases of missing children.
Yet some of the difficult changes in the world also brought "new possibilities" that could help reduce the number of children and teens who are abducted or go missing. With the onset of the Internet, mass communications became almost instantaneous when a child went missing. The Internet also brought greater access to child pornography which made it a double-edged sword.
Sometimes children or teens go missing at the hands of non-family members, sometimes at the hand of family members and sometimes they run away from abusive homes to land on the streets where they become prey for those who seek to exploit them. Sometimes they are "thrown away" by those who no longer care about them. Even worse, kids are sometimes "trafficked" for profit or personal gain into things like prostitution, pornography or for the sadistic pleasure of gangs or others who wish to exploit their innocence.
The dramatic changes in our families, communities and the world require new "tips, tools and resources" to combat these unthinkable acts on innocent children. So to honor Jacob's legacy and to respond to the public's outcry, Jacob Wetterling Foundation became Jacob Wetterling Resource Center in September 2008 and launched a new website to arm the public with the tools they need to help build safer communities for our children and teens.
The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center merged with the National Child Protection Training Center in February 2010. The move is an effort to combine the groups' resources and strengthen their common efforts to ensure every child grows up in a healthy, safe world free from abuse, exploitation and abduction.