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Office of Justice Programs Commemorates National Missing Children’s Day

Washington, D.C. – In observance of the 41st annual National Missing Children’s Day, the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention announced the winners of this year’s National Missing Children’s Day awards.

“Every day, we are inspired by the dedication and unwavering efforts of those who work to find and help missing children, and to hold those who commit child sexual abuse and crimes against children legally responsible for their actions,” said Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon. “Our resolve and collective commitment to the safety and welfare of America’s youth remains unparalleled.”

Each year, some 375,000 children go missing in the United States. National Missing Children’s Day serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing efforts to recover missing children, reaffirms our commitment to those still missing and honors the memory of children who are no longer with us.

“The emotional toll of a missing child reverberates throughout our communities, impacting parents, caregivers and families—truly, all of us,” said OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan. “Today, we pause to recognize individuals who have made a difference; their work brings healing and reminds us that there is more work to be done to bring every child home.”

Today’s speakers also included National Center for Missing & Exploited Children President and CEO Michelle C. DeLaune; and Patty Wetterling, parent advocate and mother of Jacob Wetterling.

This year’s recipients are honored with the following award:

OJJDP Administrator’ Special Commendation: This commendation recognizes the extraordinary efforts of an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, ICAC member, State Missing Children’s Clearinghouse Manager or AMBER Alert Coordinator.

Recipients: Special Agent Aisha Rahman, Homeland Security Investigations, and Detective Malory Wildove, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, both of West Palm Beach, FL, received the OJJDP Administrator’s Special Commendation for their exhaustive pursuit of individuals involved in an online social networking application distributing child sexual exploitation material to hundreds of people. The investigation led to the arrest of five defendants, all of whom were indicted and sentenced to between 13 and 30 years in prison.

Additionally, Hanna Lapina, a 5th grader from Cooley Springs-Fingerville Elementary School in Chesnee, South Carolina, was named the winner of the 2024 National Missing Children’s Day poster contest. The contest creates an opportunity for schools, law enforcement and child advocates to engage in discussions about child safety with youth and their parents.

“Every year, the remarkable talent and insight of these children bring awareness and hope to the efforts of all involved in reuniting missing children with their families,” commented Ryan. “Miss Lapina’s artwork adeptly captures the notion that the puzzle is not complete until the missing piece—the child—is back home.” This year, over 236 schools across 30 states participated in the contest, submitting more than 1,300 poster entries.

Following the awards presentation, the day’s focus shifted to children missing or abducted from state social service agencies, featuring a panel of five experts representing the federal, state, local, non-governmental and lived experience perspectives of child and youth services. Panelists addressed issues and challenges associated with children going missing from care, including risk factors, common vulnerabilities and strategies for reducing occurrences and enhancing child protection through stakeholder collaboration.

The Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention leads the nation in observing Missing Children’s Day, which was first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 in memory of 6-year-old Etan Patz, who was abducted while walking to his bus stop in Manhattan on May 25, 1979. This annual observance honors his memory and children who are still missing.

A livestream of the 41st annual National Missing Children's Day commemoration can be accessed here.

About the Office of Justice Programs

The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance, and other resources to improve the nation's capacity to prevent and reduce crime; advance equity and fairness in the administration of justice; assist victims; and uphold the rule of law. More information about OJP and its program offices – the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office for Victims of Crime and SMART Office – can be found at www.ojp.gov.

About the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act. Signed into law on September 7, 1974, the Act established OJJDP to support local and state efforts to prevent delinquency and improve juvenile justice systems. Through its divisions, OJJDP sponsors research, program, and training initiatives; develops priorities and goals and sets policies to guide federal juvenile justice issues; disseminates information about juvenile justice issues; and awards funds to states to support local programming.


OFFICE: ojjdp.ojp.gov
CONTACT: OJP Media at [email protected]

Date Published: May 22, 2024