The creation of The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) revolves around two prominent child disappearances.
The first happened in 1979. Etan Patz, who was 6 years old, was reported missing after he never made it to his school bus stop in New York City. At the time, the only method of searching for a missing child was to physically send officers and bloodhounds out to look. After weeks of nothing, the police decided to post a flyer with Etan’s photo asking people to come forward with any information. This abduction played a big role in the making of the missing children movement, as he was one of the first missing children to have his photo featured on a milk carton.
The second prominent child disappearance happened in 1981, when 6-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a department store in Hollywood, Florida. His mother, Revé Walsh, had left him at a video game kiosk with some other young boys while she went shopping. By the time she returned, 10 minutes later, to find Adam missing, a salesclerk explained that the boys had all been asked to leave.
She searched for Adam in the mall and had him paged several times, but he did not turn up. Adam’s parents launched a large manhunt to try and find their son. Unfortunately Adam’s head was found severed two weeks later in a canal over 100 miles away from his abduction site.
At this point missing children were being featured on milk cartons, flyers were posted around cities, and search parties were sent out, but it still was not returning many missing children home safely. Adam Walsh’s father, John, did not give up on trying to create a better system for finding missing children.
Thanks to his persistence, in 1983 U.S. Congress passed the Missing Children’s Assistance Act and in 1984, helped John and Revé Walsh co-found The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
What is NCMEC?
“As the nation’s nonprofit clearinghouse and comprehensive reporting center for all issues related to the prevention of and recovery from child victimization, NCMEC leads the fight against abduction, abuse, and exploitation – because every child deserves a safe childhood.”
One of the first tools that NCMEC implemented was a 24-hour hotline, where people could call in tips about missing children. Even at the present time, the hotline, now called the CyberTipline remains intact and beneficial. The primary goal of NCMEC was to be a resource for anything revolving around missing and exploited children. They also wanted to spread awareness about ways to prevent child abduction and exploitation.
NCMEC’s motto “Hope is why we are here,” represents their goal to provide hope for the families of missing and exploited children. They not only did this through the CyberTipline, by providing educational resources, or working closely with law enforcement, but in 1998 NCMEC also created an in-house, volunteer-run peer support program called Team HOPE.
Team HOPE is made up of volunteers who have either been missing or experienced sexual exploitation as a child or are the parent or guardian of a missing or sexually exploited child. Today, Team HOPE has their own helpline where those going through crisis can call and get additional support and compassion.
In 1999, NCMEC’s international, sister organization was also established. The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) combined with NCMEC successfully runs within 22 countries.
What can you find on NCMEC’s website?
Search for Missing Children
The “Search for Missing Children” area of NCMEC’s website is a place where people can search for active missing children’s cases, active AMBER Alerts, or make a CyberTipline report. This space allows those who want to help find missing children to get involved and report any information they might have.
The CyberTipline is how NCMEC receives most of their reports regarding exploitation of a child. By using the 24-hour hotline 1-800-843-5678, anyone can make a report about “suspected online enticement of children for sexual acts, child sexual molestation, child sexual abuse material, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, unsolicited obscene materials sent to a child, misleading domain names, and misleading words or digital images on the internet.”
Any information collected through the hotline is reviewed by trained professionals and then passed on to necessary law-enforcement agencies. If you ever fear for the safety of a child regarding any of these areas of exploitation DO NOT hesitate to call the hotline. You could be the difference in the safety of a child’s life.
As previously stated, Team HOPE is a volunteer-run, peer support program meant to support family members of missing or sexually exploited children or survivors. All volunteers have either been a missing or sexually exploited child or are a family member of a missing or sexually exploited child. If you need support in this are, they have a separate hotline (866) 305-HOPE (4673).
To learn more about Team HOPE, check out our blog here!
“The Issues” section of their website provides an in-depth look at the different problem areas regarding missing and exploited children. Each issue provides background, statistics, and helpful resources. Here are the issues that NCMEC focuses on:
- Autism & Wandering
- Child Sex Trafficking
- Family Abductions
- Infant Abduction
- Long-Term Missing
- Missing From Care
- Nonfamily Abductions & Attempts
- Online Enticement
- Other Types of Missing
- Endangered Runaways
- Sexual Abuse
Head to the “Education” tab for resources, tools, and publications specially curated by NCMEC team members. Here you will find some prevention programs like NetSmartz Online Safety Program, or KidSmartz Personal Safety Program, and NCMEC’s Safety Central App.
NCMEC & Q5id Guardian
Considering NCMEC’s goal is to find missing children and protect them from exploitation, it was a no-brainer to partner with Q5id Guardian! Q5id Guardian is an immediate alert system that will help find missing children. Q5id Guardian is also volunteer –based, which aligns with NCMEC’s Team HOPE. Overall, by aligning with Q5id Guardian, we should be able to bridge the gap in children who are never found and bring all children home safely.