Dec 13

New Palo Alto, CA office opens

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.

Dec 11

Focusing on children in international family abductions

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.

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A mother greets her sons at an airport after being reunified.

Brief submitted to Supreme Court

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.

Upholding standards for international cases

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.

Dec 05

Missing this week

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.

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April Williams went missing Dec. 3, 1983 at the age of 3-months (left). The image on the right shows what she may look like today.

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.

New ways to highlight cases

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.

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Our new “Missing This Week” and “Missing This Day” features highlight cases of kids who went missing in that calendar week.

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.

Remembering the missing

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.

Nov 29

Why Bystanders Matter

netsmartzworkshop:

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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.

Read More

Nov 21

Child sex trafficking, a missing child issue

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.

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The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s “Hope Bag” program provides survivors of child sex trafficking with the basic items, like clothing, they may need immediately following recovery.

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.”

Recruiting the most vulnerable

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.

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“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.

Nov 18

Online industry leaders announce new steps in fight against child pornography

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.

Uncovering the worst of the worst

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.

Eliminating exploitative content

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.

Sounding the alarm

Last year alone, our CyberTipline received more than 348,600 reports of apparent child pornography from more than 1,000 electronic service providers.

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Since the CyberTipline began in 1998 it has received more than 2 million reports of child sexual exploitation.

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.

Nov 14

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Nov 08

Three years later, three brothers still missing

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Tanner, Alexander and Andrew went missing on Thanksgiving Day three years ago.

Nov. 28 will be Tanya Zuver’s third Thanksgiving without her three sons. The boys were last seen on Thanksgiving Day, 2010 at their father’s house in Morenci, Mich. A neighbor saw them playing in the backyard.

It is believed the children vanished between 2 p.m. Nov. 26 and 11 a.m. the following day when their father, John Skelton, checked himself into a medical facility.

Tanya and John were in the middle of a divorce when the children went to spend Thanksgiving with their father on a scheduled visit. On Nov. 26, John checked himself into a medical facility for self-inflicted injuries. At that time he told police he had given his sons to a woman he met on the Internet. Since then, John has refused to provide further information about where the boys are.

The Morenci Police Department continues to search for Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton.

Reigniting the search

Last month investigators, prosecutors, behavioral experts and members of our staff gathered at our headquarters in Alexandria, Va. to discuss the three year old case. Chief Larry Weeks of the Morenci Police Department was on hand to help lead discussions.

Chief Larry Weeks attended a case review at our headquarters in October.

The group combed through case files for two days, searching for anything that could provide another avenue for investigators to search.

“It was one of the largest case reviews that has been hosted by NCMEC,” said NCMEC Case Manager Patrick Maney. “We had over 30 experts here who are dedicated to resolving this case”

Brothers and friends

Andrew, Alexander and Tanner were as close as brothers could be. They loved playing soccer, they loved being outside and they especially loved their mom. Family members say you could see their different personalities come out on the soccer field.

Andrew, 9, stayed focused when running down the field with the ball. He was an excellent student and was quieter than his brothers. When he wasn’t studying, he was playing video or computer games.

Alexander, 7, was a great goalkeeper. He was a risk taker and was often the one getting into trouble. He was known to start water fights with his brothers.

Tanner, 5, was the youngest and could usually be found running all over the soccer field. He looked up to, and tried to keep up with, his older brothers. He had a wild imagination that would often result in great stories and laughter.

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The Skelton brothers were avid soccer players.

John Skelton is currently incarcerated for unlawful imprisonment in connection to Andrew, Alexander and Tanner’s disappearance.

Tanya will spend this Thanksgiving, just like the last two, without her sons.

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When Andrew was last seen he was 4 feet 1 inch and weighed 57 pounds.
The image on the right shows what he may look like at 10.

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When Alexander was last seen he was 3 feet 9 inches and weighed 45 pounds.
The image on the right shows what he may look like at 9.

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When Tanner was last seen he was 3 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 40 pounds.
The image on the right shows what he may look like at 7.

Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton are still missing. View their poster: http://ow.ly/qAjLZ. If you have any information contact us at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Calls can be made anonymously.

Oct 31

All it takes is one person, one call

Hope is a powerful word, and it’s a word that we use often. It can be heard in the hallways from staff, parents and law enforcement.

This hope is powerful. It is hope that a missing child will be found. Hope that sexually exploited children will be identified and rescued. Hope that an unidentified victim will be given a name.

Our Biometric and Unidentified Persons Unit works to find those names. They help law enforcement and medical examiner’s offices identify remains of children. We know that it takes just one person to see the composite image of what the child looked like in life that recognizes the child. And if someone recognizes the child, a family will have answers, a proper burial can take place and the unidentified can be given back their name.

From “Baby Hope” to Anjélica

Several cases have made national headlines in the past few years. The most recent case was of “Baby Hope.”

The New York Police Department was so certain they could solve this case and bring justice for the 4-year-old they even gave her the name Hope. For 22 years detectives relentlessly followed-up on any leads that may have held an answer or clue to who she was. And now, two decades after her small body was discovered in a cooler, law enforcement has positively identified her. One more child has been given back her name and her body has finally been laid to rest.

Unknown child in Los Angeles

Today we, along with the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Department of Coroner, need your help identifying another unknown baby. After 28 years, the search for the identity of Jane Doe Baldwin Hills continues.

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This new composite photo is being released in hopes that it may spark someone’s memory and lead to her identity.

The baby girl was found in an alley behind a Baldwin Hills apartment building located at 4206 Santo Tomas Dr in Los Angeles.


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The child is believed to have been between 10 to 12 months old and weighed only 14 pounds. She had four teeth, two on the top and two on the bottom, and her ears were pierced. She was discovered on Aug. 19, 1985 at around 6 a.m. when a passerby going to work noticed her naked and malnourished body. It is believed the baby’s body was placed in the alley between 4 and 6 a.m.

The Los Angeles Police Department has set up a private tip line for this case. If you have any information regarding the identity of Jane Doe Baldwin Hills call 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (1-877-527-3247) and leave a tip for Juvenile Division Detective Marie Grebinski. Or email your tips to lacrimestoppers.org. Tips may be made anonymously.

View and print Jane Doe Baldwin Hills poster here: http://ow.ly/qiFki

Oct 24

Parental Involvement: The Real Game Changer

safetocompete:

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(Parent and volunteer youth sports coach Ed Russo encourages his team.)

As a volunteer youth sports coach, I have the opportunity to meet a lot of great kids and their parents. One thing I’ve realized is that in youth sports a great team isn’t just made up of talented players, but involved parents. So when choosing players, I often consider the quality of the parent as much as the child. Having good, supportive, engaged parents makes the season more successful.

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