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Children Missing from Care

NCJ Number
Date Published

This report presents data on children missing while receiving services from state care agencies, which are required under federal law (Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act) to report such cases to both a law enforcement agency and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).


This report presents such data for the fiscal years between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2019. When relevant, data from this time period are compared to data from the preceding five fiscal years between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2017. Since the enactment of the federal reporting requirement, the number of incidents of missing children reported by state care agencies to NCMEC has steadily increased each year before starting to taper off as depicted in this report. Of all the missing children reported to NCMEC during this period, those missing from care composed most cases (71 percent). The current analysis includes the 94,906 reported incidents of children missing from state care agencies during these 7 fiscal years. Nearly all these cases (94 percent) were primarily endangered runaways, followed by young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 (4 percent). For FY 2017-2019, 74 percent of all children missing from care were in foster home placement, and 57 percent of these children were recovered at home. More males (20 percent) than females (15 percent) were recovered on the street. Males were more likely to be recovered by turning themselves in (41 percent). Females reported missing from care had significantly higher proportions of victimization in child sex trafficking, as well as higher risk for self-harm and suicidal tendencies. Males were more likely to reportedly possess a weapon, engage in alcohol or drug use, and become involved in a gang. 2 figures

Date Published: January 1, 2020