As we celebrate the holiday season surrounded by family and friends, we remember those who are still searching for their children. Those who will never give up the hope that one day they will be reunited. Until that time we can offer words of support and encouragement for each of the families missing a loved one on this holiday.
Highlighted are a few children who went missing in the month of December.
Jennifer and her daughter Ashley have been missing for twenty years after vanishing from Kansas City, Mo.
Alfred and Albert were abducted five years ago from Plainsboro, N.J. They are believed to be in India.
Tyler Thomas vanished three years ago from Peru, Neb.
In 2014 we vow to keep searching, keep supporting and keep hoping for the families of missing and sexually exploited children. This holiday season we wish you peace. As always, we stand with you and your families.
If you have any information regarding a missing or exploited child, call our hotline at 1-800-843-5678. Calls may be made anonymously. Someone is available 24 hours a day to speak with you, even on Christmas!
Melissa Snow is a Program Specialist on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Sex Trafficking Team. Prior to joining us Melissa worked with survivors of sex trafficking as a victim service provider.
I know just how important a Hope Bag is to a child survivor of sex trafficking. In my former role as a victim service provider, I watched survivors of child sex trafficking fluctuate from panic to relief when receiving just a few simple comforts and the support of someone who cares.
When I met one survivor, just 15 years old, she was sitting on a hotel room bed in the clothes her trafficker had made her wear. Three months earlier she had packed a suitcase to go to the beach with a man she thought was her boyfriend. She had never been to the beach before. When I met her, she didn’t know what that man — now her trafficker — had done with the suitcase. They never made it to the beach.
I handed the girl a bag of items and told her these were some things just for her. As she slowly opened the bag and started removing the items she asked, “Is this all for me?”
When she got to a pair of sweatpants with a big heart on the side a hesitant smile spread across her face. She told me she loved to draw hearts. She jumped up and ran into the bathroom to change. When she came out she had on the full sweat suit, new socks and had used the make-up remover to take off the fake eyelashes and make-up her trafficker made her wear to appear older. As she sat back down in front of me, the little girl had reemerged.
A few months later, I drove to pick up the same girl; we were going on that long awaited trip to the beach. As she hopped in the car I noticed she was wearing the sweatpants with the heart on the side.
“When I put them on it reminds me that someone cares,” she said.
Recovery is an important step, but it’s the first of many. We can make that first step easier by making sure these survivors have the basic items they deserve. Making a Hope Bag available to every recovered child is a lofty goal, but I believe these kids are worth it. If we know that offering this Hope Bag can make a difference, then it’s worth our every effort.
Please consider making a donation to our Hope Bags campaign this holiday season. There are many girls, like the one above, who are in need of basic items and the reminder that somebody cares. Just $45 will help us provide this to survivors of child sex trafficking across the country. Donate at: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hope-bags
Leave a message of support for searching families in the comments below. A simple word of support can go a long way.
As you plan for your holiday season, take a moment to honor and recognize those who are missing a child. Our Team HOPE volunteers will read your notes and share them with the families they work with throughout the holidays.
We are proud and excited to announce the opening of a new office in Palo Alto, Calif. The new office brings us closer to the technology companies that are playing an important role in the effort to protect children from abduction and sexual exploitation.
Located in space donated by Palantir Technologies, the new office will provide technical assistance to law enforcement and enhance NCMEC’s partnerships with leaders in the technology industry.
Last night we were joined at the ribbon cutting by Michael Lopp, Palantir Director of Engineering; Mayor Greg Scharff of Palo Alto; Chief Dennis Burns of the Palo Alto Police Department and Chief Scott Seaman of the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department.
Thanks to all who were involved in the opening of this important new branch! We look forward to broadening our relationships with technology companies as we continue to fight child abduction and exploitation.
Family abductions are one of the most frequent types of missing child cases reported to the National Center for Missing & Children. A family abduction occurs when a child is wrongfully taken, retained or concealed by a parent or another family member. These cases make up between 10 percent and 20 percent of our active missing child caseload.
In approximately one quarter of family abduction cases reported to us, the child was transported across an international border. This greatly complicates and extends the search for the child.
Because these abductions take longer to resolve, they form an even larger percentage of the active missing child caseload. We have an average of 1,200 open international family abduction cases at any time.
This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear Lozano v. Alvarez, a case arising under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. Our Office of Legal Counsel, with pro bono assistance from law firm Ropes & Gray, has submitted a brief to the Court regarding the case. The brief argues that a parent who abducts their child from another country into the United States should not gain an unfair litigation advantage by hiding the child or otherwise keeping their whereabouts concealed from the authorities.
We remain dedicated to international cooperation and the safe, prompt return of children who have been taken across international borders. The brief encourages the Supreme Court justices to hold the United States to the same high standard we expect from other Hague Convention partner countries when U.S. children are abducted to foreign countries.
We work each international family abduction case on an individual basis, coordinating with agencies in the United States and other countries to provide technical assistance and information to parents, attorneys and law enforcement. International family abduction cases may take longer to resolve, but we will continue identify, develop and promote resources for families and law enforcement until every child is brought home.
Interested in learning more about the Lozano v. Alvarez case? Read the case preview on SCOTUSblog.
On Dec. 3, 1983, Eleanor Williams was traveling with her 3-month-old daughter April from Suffolk, Va. to Fort Riley, Kan. by bus when they had a stop-over in Washington, D.C.
When the bus arrived at the Trailways station, passengers — including Eleanor and April — had a more than 2-hour wait ahead of them. While waiting, a woman identifying herself as “LaToya” befriended Eleanor. She offered to hold April and buy them some sodas. As Eleanor adjusted her bags and got settled for their wait, LaToya walked away with April and never returned.
When children like April go missing, their photos are often seen on TV, in newspapers and taped to telephone poles. But as days, weeks and years pass, those photos are circulated less and less. We have recently launched two new tools to help keep these photos circulating.
Our new “Missing This Week” and “Missing This Day” tools list all children who have been reported to us that went missing in that calendar week or day, like April Williams.
No matter if a child has been missing one year, 10 years or 30 years; if they went missing during that specific week they will be on the list. Each child’s photo links to their poster. Each poster has social buttons that make sharing the photos on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as easy as one click.
It’s been 30 years since April was last seen. In those 30 years the popularity of bus travel has declined and risen again. The Trailways station in D.C. is set to be demolished. A lot has changed, but April is still missing and Eleanor is still searching for her daughter.
April has black hair and black eyes. She had a birthmark on her wrist at the time of her abduction. The abductor is a black female with red hair. She was approximately 5 feet 3 inches tall.
April Williams is still missing. View her poster: http://ow.ly/rtGT3. If you have any information contact us at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Calls can be made anonymously.
Discussions about cyberbullying often focus on the victim and the bully, but most children are neither. They are bystanders.
In a Pew Internet & American Life study, 88% of teens (ages 12 to 17) reported witnessing someone being mean to someone else while on a social networking site.
Bystanders can play an important role in stopping cyberbullying but are often unprepared to take action. It’s up to us, as trusted adults, to help bystanders learn the skills they need to respond to cyberbullying.
Thirty-one times in three years. That’s how many times one girl, called “Rebecca” for privacy, was reported missing to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Rebecca was 14 and in a group home for just 90 minutes when she first ran away.
Though she was located by law enforcement just two weeks later, Rebecca would be reported missing to NCMEC and then located a 20th time just a year later – in an area of town known for prostitution. Eventually, she was linked to a pimp, gave birth to a child and turned 18, aging out of the foster care system.
For us, stories like Rebecca’s are not rare. While no one knows the exact number of children victimized through sex trafficking in the United States, one out of eight endangered runaways reported to NCMEC in 2012 were likely child sex trafficking victims.
On Oct. 23, 2013, NCMEC CEO John Ryan was invited to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources about the problem of sex trafficking of youth in foster care.
“The issue of child sex trafficking is complex. In the real world, children are being sold on the streets, in hotels and in casinos,” Ryan testified. “In the online world, they are being advertised on a variety of websites. Their ‘pimps’ can be perceived friends or boyfriends, or even family members or foster parents. It is a unique type of child victimization.”
Many of the children reported missing to us are vulnerable youth who’ve run from their families, foster care or social services, and their cases need to be treated with the utmost urgency. Traffickers know these children are in need of food, shelter or emotional support, and use these vulnerabilities to control them. Of the children reported missing to us in 2012 who were also likely victims of sex trafficking, 67 percent were in the care of social services when they ran.
These children often lack the emotional and physical safety nets to keep them away from the pimps recruiting them. Pimps scout out victims at shopping malls, schools and now over social networking. Recruiters may start an online conversation to see what the child’s needs are before luring them in.
“The most important thing we can do is to change the conversation from a juvenile delinquency issue to a child protection issue,” Ryan testified. “These children lack the ability to just walk away from their pimps. They must be recognized as victims who must be rescued and given appropriate services. Because of this, NCMEC is prioritizing efforts to urge all state child welfare agencies to report missing foster children to law enforcement and then to NCMEC.”
Child sex trafficking is victimizing children nationwide, and the only way not to find it in your community is not to look for it. November is National Runaway Prevention Month. Take some time this month to learn about child sex trafficking and potential victims in your community and what you can do to prevent it.
With training and education, parents, social workers, teachers, principals, school nurses and counselors would be more likely to recognize high risk factors and intervene prior to victimization. They can also be critical to the identification of those minors who have already been victimized to provide appropriate resources and services.
If you have information about possible child sex trafficking, please report it to our CyberTipline or call 1-800-THE-LOST, which is open 24 hours a day.
This morning Google and Microsoft announced their latest effort to combat child pornography online. Every day they help make the Internet a safer place.
Innovations like this and other voluntary steps help the online industry work to stay one step ahead of those who look to victimize children.
Online industry partners keep themselves up-to-date on where some of the Internet’s worst content lives by participating in our URL and hash value initiatives.
Online companies work to keep their services clean by developing and sharing technology, such as PhotoDNA, that helps them find, report and curtail the circulation of child pornography.
Last year alone, our CyberTipline received more than 348,600 reports of apparent child pornography from more than 1,000 electronic service providers.
We are proud to have so many online industry partners, like Google and Microsoft, who have joined us every day for more than 15 years to help keep our children safer.