The Megan Kanka Foundation
July 29th 1994 marked the end 7-year-old Megan Kanka’s life. Lured inside the house of her neighbour who promised to show her a puppy, the little girl was beaten, strangled, and sexually assaulted by him. Her lifeless body was placed inside a wooden toy chest with a bag over her head, and dumped at the Mercer County Park in New Jersey. Her body was discovered the next day after her killer, a twice-convicted sex offender, confessed to police.
The case made national headlines after Megan’s mother, Maureen stated, “We knew nothing about him; if we had been aware of his record, my daughter would be alive today”. With donations pouring in from all parts of the country, Megan’s parents founded The Megan Kanka Foundation on August 1st 1994, just 2 days after their daughter’s murder.
The objective of the foundation was to pass a law which would require the public to be notified when a sex offender moved into their neighbourhood. Keeping the circumstances of their own tragedy in focus, the Kanka family travelled widely, speaking about the pain and irreparable loss they had endured, which could have been avoided if they had been notified of their neighbour’s criminal record. They visited the White House on many occasions, and met with immense support from President Clinton, who signed Megan’s Law on April 30th 2003. Later, President George.W.Bush signed the Federal Children Act.
The Foundation supports families who have endured or are enduring similar tragedies which have occurred due to the failure of local authorities to inform them of registered sex offenders and paedophiles who are living in their neighbourhoods. Sharing this information serves to alert families about the potential danger to their child’s safety and allows them to take precautionary measures to ensure the prevention of untoward incidents.
The Foundation also offers funding for “Check ‘em out”, a programme which provides 100% funding for individuals who wish to carry out background checks for school sports coaches. The increase in child sexual abuse cases which involved coaches prompted the foundation to prioritize the need for these checks to be carried out in addition to regular checks carried out by school authorities. Megan’s Law facilitates a collaborative effort between the public, law-making authorities and the public, and this initiative is one of many in the pipeline for the foundation.
As part of its awareness generation efforts, the Foundation brings forward the distinction between the behavioural characteristics of a sex offender and a paedophile. It states that paedophiles cannot be cured of their desire to form intimate connections with children, which is why they should be banned from living in neighbourhoods which house families. While this statement has met with its share of criticism, the advocacy campaign appears to have paid off in many parts of the country where convicted paedophiles were identified in residential zones occupied by children, and were asked to move out.
The Kanka family makes it a point to attend court hearings where Megan’s Law was involved, and makes it a point to support families whose children are missing, or are suspected of being in the hands of sex offenders. Their mission will continue forward and ensure that more children are kept safe from harm, and that those who harm them are kept far away.