Endangered, Missing & Abducted Children

Of the nearly 25,000 runaways reported to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2017, one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking. Of those, 88 percent were in the care of social services when they went missing. In 2018, over 1600 attempted child abductions occurred.

Realizing someone you care about is missing can be devastating. Having a child run away or go missing is one of the worst fears of any parent, and it will result in overwhelming emotional reactions that make logic and decision-making difficult to deal with. Patience may be a virtue, but when it comes to missing children, there’s no time to waste.

Amber Alert

Annually, many children go missing. Most of them are retrieved quickly. In cases of a missing child, the police assess to which extent the child is in danger. Following this assessment, they decide how to act.

AMBER Alert exclusively distributes AMBER Alerts and information about endangered missing children. The police only issue an AMBER Alert when a child’s life is in imminent danger (AMBER Alert) or when there are substantial indications that the child is at high risk of harm and/or in immediate danger, and rapid action is required (endangered missing child). Children often run away from home or are abducted by one of their parents. When the life of these children is not in danger, the police use other means to find the missing child.

Lost, Injured or Missing (LIM)

A lost, injured, or otherwise missing child is defined as a child who has disappeared under unknown circumstances or a child who is too young to appropriately be considered a runaway. This ranges from a child wandering off and becoming lost, to a child who may have been abducted, but no one saw it happen. These circumstances sometimes involve “foul play”, or those reporting the incident may attempt to cover up a crime involving the child.


Risk Factors

Given the broad nature of these categories, it can be difficult to determine patterns that may increase risk.  However, some characteristics may be common:

  • Young children, especially those with autism, wander from a known location after being drawn away by something of interest, such as following a pet, an animal, or other child, or they run to something they are attracted to like bodies of water, traffic signs, trains, etc.
  • Young children can be unaware of being lost and may not feel worried or lonely for some time, increasing the distance that they stray.
  • Children may be unaware of how to return home, but try to get back on their own.

Who is Considered a Missing Child?

There is no similar global consensus as to how to define a “missing child” or how to investigate cases involving missing/abducted children. This lack of a common definition and a standard response results in few reliable statistics on the scope of the problem around the world, which can further complicate these cases.

Generally speaking, a missing person under the age of 18 is classified as a missing child. They are considered missing if they are no longer in the care or control of their legal guardian and have not been removed by law. They are considered missing until returned to appropriate care and control.