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Missing Children

Special Feature
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For parents, the safety and welfare of their children is paramount. When a child is missing, families are traumatized yet face the challenge of organizing every available resource to find their child.

In 2019, there were more than 400,000 reports of missing children to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Crime Information Center. The wide range of reasons why a child goes missing makes solving these cases complex and multifaceted.

But regardless of the reason why a child is missing, timing is crucial. A rapid response from the community and law enforcement significantly increases the chance of resolving a case successfully.

For more than 20 years, the AMBER Alert System has been helping families find their missing children with alerts broadcasted to the community through radio, television, text messages, and other platforms. With funding support from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), AMBER Alert is used in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Indian Country, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 30 other countries. As of May 2020, 988 children have been rescued because of AMBER Alert.

As AMBER Alert programs have evolved over two decades, much has been learned about deploying a successful response across a complex system with many stakeholders. Experience has shown the success of an AMBER Alert activation ultimately rests on the proactive involvement of critical stakeholders along with program design and execution. Training and resources across roles are integral to effective contributions in response to a missing child.

For more than 30 years, OJJDP has partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), providing support to achieve the center's mission of finding missing children, reducing child sexual exploitation, and preventing child victimization. Through its longstanding partnership, OJJDP and NCMEC provide resources, technical assistance, and prevention services to victims, families, and the public, as well as support for law enforcement agencies in cases involving missing and exploited children.

President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed May 25 as National Missing Children's Day in 1983 to honor 6-year-old Etan Patz, who vanished from a New York street in 1979. It has been recognized as such every year since then.

National Missing Children's Day is dedicated to reminding parents, guardians, and other trusted caregivers to make child safety and well-being a priority. It is a time to show appreciation for those who work to find and safely bring home children who may be missing, and it also serves as an annual reminder to the nation to continue efforts aimed at reuniting missing children with their families.

Visit the following pages for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal sources: