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Four Myths about NCMEC—Busted


May 25 is “National Missing Children’s Day.” Join us here all month to learn more about NCMEC and our search for missing children.

NCMEC has been helping find and protect kids since 1984, but what comes to mind when you hear our name? The public interest in crime has produced countless podcasts, movies and TV shows that influence that answer.

The characters on “Law & Order: SVU” can rattle off our name with ease, but not everything is as “seen on TV.” In fact, the truth about NCMEC and the issues related to missing and exploited children can be very different then what the public thinks.

Today we want to take the opportunity to bust some of the biggest myths out there about us and the issues we work on every day.

  1.     Missing child cases are mostly “stranger abductions.”
    Before NCMEC was co-founded in 1984, it was often believed that strangers abducted most missing children. However, over the last 36 years, NCMEC has collected data from hundreds of thousands of cases, and we now know that the overwhelming majority of missing children reported are endangered runaways. The statistics tell us that last year, 91 percent of missing kids reported to NCMEC were children running away from home or foster care. The second highest rates of missing children were abducted by a family member who did not have custody. Less than one percent were nonfamily (stranger) abductions. 
  2.     NCMEC is a government agency.
    It’s true that President Ronald Reagan was present at the founding of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 1984, but we are not a government agency. NCMEC is a private, registered nonprofit organization that depends on government funding as well as the generosity of individual and corporate donors. Without the donations of individuals like you, NCMEC’s ability to protect children would be greatly diminished. Please commit to protecting children by signing up for a monthly gift today.
  3.     NCMEC’s only mission is to help find missing children.
    This one may stem from the fact that John and Revé Walsh co-founded NCMEC after the tragic abduction and murder of their son, Adam Walsh. It might also be because of our far-reaching missing child posters. However, helping recover missing kids is only one of the three focuses of our mission. Every day NCMEC works to 1) help find missing children; 2) reduce child sexual exploitation online; 3) and prevent child victimization. All three of these work together to protect children.
  4.     Children being trafficked for sex are brought from other countries and are living on the street or with pimps.
    This one is the hardest to talk about because the reality is, most children being trafficked in the U.S. are vulnerable American children. Family members are even sometimes trafficking their own children. In 2019, of the 26,300 endangered runaways reported to NCMEC, one in six were likely victims of child sex trafficking. The average age of a child sex trafficking victim reported to us was only 15 years old. Child sex trafficking has been reported in all 50 U.S. states.

NCMEC has been working to protect kids for over 36 years, and one thing will always remain true: We will #NeverStop searching. Our work is motivated by a deeply held belief that every child deserves a safe childhood.


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