National Missing Children's Day: How you can help

Wednesday marks National Missing Children's Day, which began in 1983 as a way to honor efforts of individuals, organizations and agencies working to protect children.

The day also raises awareness about the hundreds of thousands of missing children in the country.

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There are numerous ways to protect your own children and help families of those who are missing:

Stay informed

In 2015 the FBI's National Crime Information Center had 460,699 entries for missing children, although it is not possible to have an exact amount because many children are never reported missing. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children says that one of the best ways to help is by seeing photos of missing children and reading safety tips.

Report missing children

By being aware of the names and faces of missing children, people can actively report them if they think they have seen them. Family members can also report a child missing to the NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Families who have a missing child should immediately call their local law enforcement agency.

Know the case types for missing children

There are varying circumstances in which children may go missing. NCMEC reported that it assisted law enforcement with the following types of cases: Endangered runaways; family abductions; lost, injured or otherwise missing children; nonfamily abductions; and critically missing young adults who are between ages 18 and 20.

Children who are missing as endangered runaways often become victims of sex trafficking. NCMEC reported that in 2015, one in five endangered runaways were victims of child sex trafficking. The FBI reported several signs of possible human trafficking:

  • Individuals who have no contact with friends or family and no access to identification documents, bank accounts or cash

  • Workplaces where psychological manipulation and control are used

  • Homes or apartments with inhumane living conditions

  • People whose communications and movements are always monitored or who have moved or rotated through multiple locations in a short amount of time

  • Places where locks and fences are positioned to confine occupants

  • Workers who have excessively long and unusual hours, are unpaid or paid very little, are unable take breaks or days off and have unusual work restrictions, and/or have unexplained work injuries or signs of untreated illness or disease

Spread the word

Missing children can only be found as the public is made aware of them. By learning about missing children in your state you can remain aware of missing children and inform others. Paying attention to AMBER alerts on highway signs and radio and TV broadcasts, as well as on mobile phones and on the Internet, is helpful and can inform individuals so they can share the information with their peers.