Hope is why we’re here. If you follow NCMEC, that’s likely a phrase you’ve heard us use from time to time. As employees of the center, we’re often asked how we can do this job…how we can see the worst of the worst and still carry on.
The answer is hope.
Hope that the missing child we’ve been searching for will be found tonight. Hope that the child photographed during their assault will be rescued before it happens again. And though it feels like we’re always working against the clock, that hope drives us and fuels our promise to never stop.
2020 tested that promise. It stretched us mentally and emotionally. Seemingly overnight, we had to reimagine just about every aspect of our work and there was no room for anything to fall through the cracks.
We saw the risks children face grow as predators took advantage of stay-at-home orders to target children online. We saw increases in calls to our hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST. And we saw child sex traffickers adapting their business models to sell children in the COVID environment.
The threats our kids face are constantly evolving, and we work hard every day to identify those threats and figure out how to better protect children. And while the way we do our work is ever-evolving, our commitment to children will never falter.
Here’s a look at a few things this year brought:
1. Record-breaking number of reports to our CyberTipline. We received more than 20 million reports of possible child sexual abuse online. Reports of online enticement nearly doubled from last year. Through these reports, we saw child predators using the opportunity of more children online to entice them to produce sexually explicit material.
2. The 5 millionth call to our hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST. Our 24/7 call center seamlessly transitioned to remote work and continued to be a lifeline for parents, taking more than 97,000 calls this year alone.
3. The 1,000th safe recovery of an abducted child due to an AMBER Alert. This program helps quickly spread the word when a child is abducted and proves that it just takes one person to make a difference and bring a child home.
4. Unprecedented support from our donors. Times are tough for everyone, but that didn’t stop our supporters…people like you! Our corporate partners and our individual friends pushed forward, supporting birthday fundraisers, online events, runs and walks. This helped us raise the critical funds we need to keep moving forward.
The challenge isn’t over. It takes all of us working together to build a better future for our children. As our world continues to change and adapt, so will we. That’s our promise to #NeverStop.
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