Missing Children Statistics - One Missing Child Is One Too Many

Torn and dirty teddy bear/ Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

The lack of a common definition of “missing child,” and a common response to the issue, results in few reliable statistics on the scope of the problem around the world.

Even with this challenge, we know that:

In Australia, an estimated 20,000 children are reported missing every year. Australian Federal Police, National Coordination Centre.

In Canada, an estimated 45,288 children are reported missing each year. Government of Canada, Canada’s Missing — Fast Fact Sheet.

In Germany, an estimated 100,000 children are reported missing each year. Initiative Vermisste Kinder.

In India, an estimated 96,000 children go missing each year. Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Missing Children of India.

In Jamaica, an estimated 1,984 children were reported missing. Jamaica’s Office of Children’s Registry

In Russia, an estimated 45,000 children were reported missing. Interview with Pavel Astakhov MIA “Russia Today,” Apr. 4, 2016.

In Spain, an estimated 20,000 children are reported missing every year. Spain Joins EU Hotline for Missing Children.

In the United Kingdom, an estimated 112,853 children are reported missing annually. National Crime Agency, UK Missing Persons Bureau.

In the United States, an estimated 460,000 children are reported missing every year. Federal Bureau of Investigation, NCIC.

It is estimated that 2,300 children are missing every day in the United States. Children can become missing for many reasons. The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children (NISMART) program identifies 5 categories that can cause children to become missing:

  • Benign reasons (i.e. misunderstandings)

  • Ran away/thrown away

  • Lost, stranded, or injured

  • Family abduction

  • Stranger abduction

Runaways/Throwaways Over 1.5 million children have a runaway or throwaway issue. Runaway cases occur when a child of 14 years or less leaves home without permission for at least one night. For older children, a runaway is a child who stays out for at least two nights. Throwaway episodes occur when a parent or other household adult tells a child to leave the house without arranging alternative care and prevents the child from returning home. Runaways/Throwaways

  • Two-thirds of children are between 15 and 17 years old

  • The male-female ratio is equal

  • More than half returned home in the same week

  • 99% return home

  • 21% are physically or sexually abused at home

Why Do Children Run Away From Home?

  • 42% have family problems

  • 14% because of peer pressure

  • 5% because of drug or alcohol abuse

  • 4% because of physical abuse

Family/Parental Abductions An estimated 203,900 children were victims of a family abduction. A family abduction occurs when a family member takes or keeps a child violating the custodial parent’s/guardian’s legitimate rights. Family/Parental Abduction Stats

  • 78% of abductors are the non-custodial parent

  • 35% of children were between 6–11 years old

  • 24% of the abductions lasted between 1 week and 1 month

  • 82% of abductors intended to affect custody permanently

  • 21% are other relatives

  • 42% of children were living with a single parent

  • 15% were living with another relative/foster parent

  • 66% were taken by a male relative

Why Do Family Members Become Abductors?

  • They are dissatisfied with custody decisions in court.

  • They have been denied visitation for not paying child support.

  • They are protecting the child and/or themselves from abuse.

  • They are angry with the break-up of the relationship.

  • They are angry with the other parent’s new partner/lifestyle.

Non-Family Abductions and Stereotypical Kidnappings An estimated 58,200 children were victims of a non-family abduction. Non-family abductions occur when someone who is not a relative abducts and detains a child without lawful authority or parental permission with the intention to keep the child permanently. There were also 115 stereotypical kidnappings. A stereotypical kidnapping occurs when a stranger or slight acquaintance transports a child 50 miles or more from home and either kills the child, holds the child for ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently. Non-Family Abduction and Stereotypical Kidnapping Stats

  • 81% were 12 years old or older in non-family cases

  • 58% were 12 years old or older in stereotypical kidnappings

  • In 40% of stereotypical kidnappings, the child was killed

  • In another 4%, the child was not recovered

  • 86% of the perpetrators are male

  • The abducted children are predominantly female

  • Nearly half of all victims were sexually assaulted.

In the United States, the AMBER Alert Program — named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered near her grandparents’ home in Texas in 1996 — is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, and transportation agencies in which an urgent bulletin is activated in the most serious child-abduction cases. AMBER stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response.” The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child. Broadcasters use the Emergency Alert System to air a description of the abducted child and suspected abductor. The alert is distributed through various technology (e.g., text message, e-mail, fax, radio and television broadcast, social media, etc.) to reach the largest number of people in the fastest time possible.

Stats compiled from The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children (NISMART), The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, The Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

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