Key Facts


In 1984, John and Revé Walsh and other child advocates founded the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children as a private, non-profit organization to serve as the national clearinghouse and resource center for information about missing and exploited children. 

Unfortunately, since many children are never reported missing, there is no reliable way to determine the total number of children who are actually missing in the U.S.

When a child is reported missing to law enforcement, federal law requires that child be entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, also known as NCIC.

According to the FBI, in 2018 there were 424,066 NCIC entries for missing children. In 2017, the total number of missing children entries into NCIC was 464,324.

This number represents reports of missing children. That means if a child runs away multiple times in a year, each instance would be entered into NCIC separately and counted in the yearly total. Likewise, if an entry is withdrawn and amended or updated, that would also be reflected in the total.

During the last 35 years, NCMEC’s national toll-free hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678), has received more than 4.9 million calls. NCMEC has circulated billions of photos of missing children, assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 304,000 missing children and facilitated training for more than 363,000 law enforcement, criminal/juvenile justice and healthcare professionals. NCMEC’s Team HOPE volunteers have provided resources and emotional support to more than 70,000 families of missing and exploited children.

Missing Children Statistics

In 2018 NCMEC assisted law enforcement and families with more than 25,000 cases of missing children.

Case type:

  • 92 percent endangered runaways.
  •  4 percent family abductions.
  •  3 percent critically missing young adults, ages 18 to 20.
  •  Less than 1 percent nonfamily abductions.
  •  1 percent lost, injured or otherwise missing children.

Of the more than 23,500 runaways reported to NCMEC in 2018, one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

NCMEC also participates in the AMBER Alert Program, a voluntary partnership between broadcasters, transportation agencies, law enforcement agencies, and the wireless industry to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. NCMEC serves as the secondary distributor of these alerts and, to date, 957 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the AMBER Alert program, including 56 recoveries credited to the wireless emergency alert program.1

NCMEC’s forensic artists have age-progressed more than 6,800 images of long-term missing children and created more than 540 facial reconstructions for unidentified deceased children. NCMEC is currently assisting with more than 702 cases of unidentified children’s remains, and so far has assisted in 143 identifications.

Team Adam, which provides rapid, on-site assistance in cases of critically missing children, has deployed more than 1,100 times.The program was named after Adam Walsh, the abducted and murdered son of NCMEC co-founders John and Revé Walsh.

Team Adam also provides technical assistance and outreach regarding long-term missing child cases and has assisted families, communities, criminal justice, and forensic professionals more than 10,700 times.3

NCMEC has analyzed more than 16,200 attempted child abductions to identify trends and help develop safety tips for families.

Exploited Children Statistics

NCMEC operates the CyberTipline, a national mechanism for the public and electronic service providers to report instances of suspected child sexual exploitation.

In 2018 the CyberTipline received more than 18.4 million reports, most of which related to:

  • Apparent child sexual abuse images.
  • Online enticement, including “sextortion.”
  • Child sex trafficking.
  • Child sexual molestation.

Since its inception, the CyberTipline has received more than 52 million reports.4

To further NCMEC’s mission and help reduce proliferation, NCMEC has sent more than 285,000 notifications to electronic service providers regarding publicly accessible websites (URLs) on which suspected child sexual abuse images appeared.5

NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification Program, which helps to locate and rescue child victims in abusive images, has reviewed more than 293 million images and videos and law enforcement has identified more than 17,500 child victims.6

NCMEC has assisted with more than 137,000 requests related to helping locate noncompliant sex offenders.7


i All numbers provided reflect program totals since inception, except where otherwise noted.

1 AMBER Alerts began in 1996 and are a program of the U.S. Department of Justice. NCMEC is a secondary distributor of AMBER Alerts.

2 NCMEC’s Team Adam program began in 2003.

3 NCMEC’s Project ALERT program began in 1992.

4 NCMEC’s CyberTipline began receiving reports in 1998.

5 NCMEC began formally tracking notifications to ESPs in 2010.

6 NCMEC’s CVIP program began in 2002.

7 NCMEC created SOTT in 2006.