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Missing Children

Special Feature
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When there is a report of a missing child, time is the enemy. The first three hours following a child’s disappearance are the most crucial for an initial response and gathering all available resources to make sure the child is returned home safely.

For more than 25 years, the AMBER Alert program 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 December 31, 2021, more than 1,100 children have been successfully recovered because of AMBER Alert since its inception.

For law enforcement, reports of missing and endangered children are among the most difficult and emotionally charged cases to investigate. The AMBER Alert Field Guide for Law Enforcement Officers provides a framework to support law enforcement in responding swiftly and decisively when confronted with a report of a missing child.

For over 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. NCMEC, which serves as an information clearinghouse and national resource center on issues related to victims and missing and exploited children, also operates a national toll-free hotline to collect information about missing or exploited children.

As of 2021, NCMEC has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 376,000 missing children, distributed billions of missing children posters, and provided training to more than 375,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other professionals involved in missing children cases.

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 are 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:

Date Modified: May 10, 2022
Date Created: August 18, 2020