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Missing and Exploited Children: What We Know and How We're Helping

Last week, the House of Representatives approved S. 3354, the last step in our efforts to modernize and reauthorize the Missing Children’s Assistance Act (MCAA). This legislation, which was enacted in 1984 and last reauthorized in 2013, coordinates federal efforts to prevent the abduction and sexual exploitation of children. The programs and services of MCAA operate out of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention within the Department of Justice. The following facts and figures relating to missing and exploited children have been released from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the organization that serves as the federal clearinghouse and resource center for information about missing and exploited children.

  • The Missing and Exploited Children’s program, which was authorized under MCAA as the main program that coordinates local and state efforts to recover missing and exploited children, received $76 million in funding in Fiscal Year 2018. This funding supports Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces (ICACs) in all fifty states and territories, NCMEC, and other non-profits doing this important work.

  • Comprehensive data relating to total number of missing and exploited children in the United States is not always available as many children are never reported missing. However, when a child is reported missing to law enforcement, federal law requires the child to be entered into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

  • In 2017, there were 464,324 NCIC entries for missing children.

  • In 2017, NCMEC received more than 27,000 reports of missing children. Of those reports, 91 percent were classified as endangered runaways, 5 percent as family abductions, 3 percent as critically missing young adults (ages 18-20), 1 percent as nonfamily abductions, and less than 1 percent as lost, injured or otherwise missing children.

  • Of the nearly 25,000 endangered runaways reported to NCMEC in 2017, one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking and of those, 88 percent were in the care of social services when they went missing.

  • NCMEC operates a CyberTipline, which serves as a national mechanism for the public and electronic service providers to report instances of suspected child sexual exploitation. In 2017, the Tipline received more than 10 million contacts, most of which related to (1) apparent child sexual abuse images; (2) online enticement, including “sextortion”; (3) child sex trafficking; and (4) child sexual molestation.  

  • NCMEC participates in the AMBER Alert Program, which is a voluntary partnership between broadcasters, transportation agencies, law enforcement agencies, and the wireless industry to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. NCMEC serves as the secondary distributor of these alerts and, to date, 924 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the program.

To learn more about S. 3354, the Missing Children's Assistance Act of 2018, click here.

For more on the work of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, click here.