Key Facts
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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 2020 there were 365,348 NCIC entries for missing children. In 2019, the total number of missing children entries into NCIC was 421,394.

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 Likewise, if an entry is withdrawn and amended or updated, that would also be reflected in the total.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 36 years, NCMEC’s national toll-free hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678), has received more than 5 million calls. NCMEC has circulated billions of photos of missing children, assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 348,000 missing children and facilitated training for more than 379,000 law enforcement, criminal/juvenile justice and healthcare professionals. NCMEC’s Team HOPE volunteers have provided resources and emotional support to more than 77,000 families of missing and exploited children.

Missing Children Statistics

In 2020 NCMEC assisted law enforcement and families with more than 29,800 cases of missing children.

Case type:

  • 91 percent endangered runaways.
  •  5 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 nearly 26,500 runaways reported to NCMEC in 2020, 1 in 6 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, 1,064 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the AMBER Alert program, including 92 recoveries credited to the wireless emergency alert program.1

NCMEC’s forensic artists have age-progressed more than 7,100 images of long-term missing children and created more than 600 facial reconstructions for unidentified deceased children. NCMEC is currently assisting with more than 680 cases of unidentified children’s remains, and so far has assisted in 167 identifications.

Team Adam, which provides rapid, on-site assistance in cases of critically missing children, has deployed more than 1,200 times.2 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 10,900 times.3

NCMEC has analyzed more than 18,300 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 2020 the CyberTipline received more than 21.7 million reports, most of which related to:

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

303,299 of those reports were from the public and 21.4 million were from electronic service providers. 

 For a full chart of the number of reports from ESPs in 2019 click here.

Since its inception, the CyberTipline has received more than 86 million reports.4

To further NCMEC’s mission and help reduce proliferation, NCMEC has sent more than 361,000 notifications to electronic service providers regarding publicly accessible websites (URLs) on which suspected child sexual abuse material appeared.5

NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification Program, which helps to locate and rescue child victims in abusive images, has reviewed more than 324 million images and videos.6

In 2020, reports to the CyberTipline included 65.4 million files with 33,690,561 images, 31,654,163 videos, and 120,590 other files.

Law enforcement has identified more than 19,200 child victims.

NCMEC has assisted with more than 178,000 requests related to helping locate noncompliant sex offenders.

In 2020, NCMEC responded to more than 17,000 reports regarding possible child sex trafficking.