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National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

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National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
FormationJune 13, 1984; 40 years ago (1984-06-13)
Type501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation
PurposeCountering child abuse and human trafficking
HeadquartersAlexandria, Virginia
  • United States
Jon Grosso
Michelle C. DeLaune

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a private, nonprofit organization established in 1984 by the United States Congress. In September 2013, the United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, and the President of the United States reauthorized the allocation of $40 million in funding for the organization as part of Missing Children's Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2013.[1] The current chair of the organization is Jon Grosso of Kohl's. NCMEC handles cases of missing minors from infancy to young adults through age 20.[2]



Primarily funded by the United States Department of Justice, the NCMEC acts as an information clearinghouse and resource for parents, children, law enforcement agencies, schools, and communities to assist in locating missing children and to raise public awareness about ways to prevent child abduction, and child sexual abuse. John Walsh, Noreen Gosch (mother of Johnny Gosch, who went missing on 1982), and others advocated establishing the center as a result of frustration stemming from a lack of resources and a national coordination between law enforcement and other government agencies.[3]

The Center provides information to help locate children reported missing (by parental abduction, child abduction, or running away from home) and to assist physically and sexually abused children. In this resource capacity, the NCMEC distributes photographs of missing children and accepts tips and information from the public. It also coordinates these activities with numerous state and federal law enforcement agencies.[4][5][6]

The Center not only specializes in locating missing children, but identifying the deceased. There are a number of unidentified decedents in the country, some of which are children, teenagers and young adults. Like missing children, posters are created for the cases and, if possible, show forensic facial reconstructions of the subject that show an estimation of their appearance while alive.[7] The reconstructions that the NCMEC creates have been regarded to be state-of-the-art and have been stated to have been mistaken for photographs.[8]


Alicia Kozakiewicz at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia (2015)

The Center was founded in 1984, spurred by notable abductions such as the 1981 abduction and murder of six-year-old Adam Walsh from a shopping mall in Hollywood, Florida, and the 1979 abduction of six-year-old Etan Patz from New York City. Because police had the ability to record and track information about stolen cars, guns, and even horses with the FBI's national crime computer, it was believed that the same should be done to find victims and the procurers.[9]

In 1984, the U.S. Congress passed the Missing Children's Assistance Act, which established a National Resource Center and Clearinghouse on Missing & Exploited Children. On June 13, 1984, the center, formed by Adam Walsh's parents, Revé and John Walsh, alongside other children's advocates, was officially opened by President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. The national 24-hour toll-free missing children's hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST, was also established.[10]

During the mid to late 1980s, the toy Teddy Ruxpin became the "Official Spokesbear" for the center at the height of his popularity.[11] Due to this partnership, some stories featured extra information for kids to stay safe from abductions, sexual predators, etc. This also caused his animated series to feature a clip titled "Protect Yourself" in which safety information for kids would be given by then popular child actors.

In September 2013, the United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, and the President of the United States voted to reauthorize $40 million in funding for the organization as part of Missing Children's Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2013 (H.R. 3092; 113th Congress).[1]

According to data compiled by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, between 2011 and 2015, 45 percent of children reported missing in America were found after being missing between six and 11 months; 27 percent were found when missing for between one and two years; 19 percent when missing for between two and five years; 5 percent between six and 10 years; 3 percent when missing between 11 and 20 years; and only 1 percent of missing children and found when missing for over 20 years.[12]

On average, 49 percent of child abductions are by family members, 27 percent by acquaintances, and 24 percent by individuals unknown to the victim. Each category is dissected into areas such as victim profiling; relationship (if existent) between offender and abductee; the time and location of abduction; and degree of violence utilized to facilitate the abduction. In instances where a child has been abducted by a stranger with homicidal intent, the abduction is most likely to occur in the evening, with death most probable within three hours of the abduction.[13]

On April 6, 2018, it was announced in Forbes magazine that the Department of Justice had seized and shut down the website of frequent nemesis of NCMEC, Backpage.com, on the grounds that it had frequently facilitated human trafficking. NCMEC released a statement: "The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children just learned that Backpage.com was seized by the FBI, IRS, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service with analytical assistance from the Joint Regional Intelligence Center. This is another step in the years-long fight against the exploitation of victims who were bought and sold for sex on Backpage.com. #NCMEC is waiting alongside the rest of the world to see what will come next. We stand by the victims and their families as they process this news and continue to fight for justice against those who profited from their abuse. #EndSexTrafficking."[14][15]

Most recently, the Center supported the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2022, which passed the United States Senate on November 15, 2022, as well as Congress on December 6, 2022. The act reauthorizes funding for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) and provides support to investigate and arrest perpetrators of sex offenses against children.[16][17]

Applications to the US seeking return of children


Effective September 5, 1995, applications seeking the return of or access to children in the US under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction were processed through the NCMEC for the US Department of State, Office of Children's Issues under contract with the US Department of State and the US Department of Justice. On April 1, 2008, the US Office of Children's Issues re-assumed U.S. Central Authority duties for processing incoming cases under the Hague Abduction Convention.[18] As a result of its status as a government contractor as well as funding provided under the Missing Children Act and Missing Children's Assistance Act, the NCMEC received (as of 2008) US$40-million funding each year from the US Government.[19]


The Board of ICMEC with Sir Richard Branson and Eve Branson in April 2014

In 1998, the NCMEC Board of Directors approved the creation of a separate international organization, the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC); the two now act as sister organizations.[20][21][22][23] ICMEC combats child sexual exploitation, child sexual abuse, and child abduction.[24][25][26][27] ICMEC held its first Board of Directors meeting in 1998.[28] It was officially launched in April 1999.[23][29]

ICMEC runs a global missing children's network of 30 countries. ICMEC has trained law enforcement personnel from 121 countries, works with law enforcement in over 100 countries, and has worked with legislatures in 100 countries to adopt new laws combating child sexual abuse. ICMEC also encourages the creation of national operational centers built on a public-private partnership model, and leads global financial and industry coalitions to eradicate child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse. The Koons Family Institute on International Law and Policy is the International Centre's research arm. In August 2008, ICMEC was granted "Special Consultative Status" by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), to assist the UN with its expertise regarding child sexual exploitation and child abduction.[30] ICMEC also works with the intergovernmental organization INTERPOL, the inter-continental organization the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Hague Conference on Private International Law.[31]

NCMEC is an associate of PACT Parents and Abducted Children Together in the United Kingdom.[32]

iOS 15 partnership and community response


In 2021, the group faced criticism over a partnership with Apple to produce and implement monitoring software for iOS 15, intended to continuously monitor all users' iCloud photos uploaded as part of iCloud Photo Library "to confirm whether it contains child pornography"; the software would send any image to human reviewers that "matches one in the database of the [NCMEC]", and user data would be forwarded to NCMEC for law enforcement review.[33] Users were not to be given an opportunity to opt out of the service, which was described as an unreasonable encroachment on privacy. Edward Snowden described the updated devices as "iNarcs", while the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued that such a backdoor would require little adaptation to monitor for other types of content, enabling political censorship by governments (who could potentially require Apple to enable such features once available).[34][35] An editorial in The New York Times by Matthew D. Green and Alex Stamos said that, while many platforms (like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft) have screened public user uploads for a long time, Apple's promise to only evaluate photos which use its iCloud service was a policy decision, not a technological requirement limiting access to users' personal devices.[36] In a company-wide internal letter to Apple employees in response to public opposition to the system, NCMEC’s executive director of strategic partnerships Marita Rodriguez described criticism as the "screeching voices of the minority."[37]



The NCMEC operates the CyberTipline which was established by Congress to process reports of child sexual exploitation (including sexual abuse, online enticement, and contact offenses). The NCMEC reviews these reports and shares them with the appropriate law enforcement agency or Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force. In addition to the information provided by the reporting party, NCMEC typically adds geolocation information (if appropriate) and cross-references identifying information such as email address, username, or IP address with existing CyberTipline Reports.[38]

Anyone can make a report to the CyberTipline but reporting is required for certain electronic service providers (ESP)[39] who become aware of the presence of child sexual abuse on their systems.[40] While ESPs are not required to actively scan for or try to detect child sexual abuse, many of them do. In 2018, the CyberTipline processed 18.4 million reports.[41]

'Take It Down' tool


In February 2023, the NCMEC announced its release of the 'Take It Down' tool, a free-to-use service that allows users to anonymously report and remove "nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit images or videos" of underage individuals found on social media, blocking the content from being shared. Adults who appeared in such content when they were under the age of 18 can also use the service. Meta provided the initial funding to create the service, while platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, OnlyFans, Pornhub, and Yubo have integrated the tool into their platforms.[42]



In 2007, NCMEC and Duracell produced a children's book title The Great Tomato Adventure: A Story About Smart Safety Choices, along with a series of educational tools for parents and guardians of older children called Teachable Moments Guides. The books were produced and published by Arbor Books, and the foreword was written by Jada Pinkett Smith. Both tools were introduced as an extension of the child safety program that launched in 2006. The book was made available as a free download via the Power of Parents program website.[43]

Notable board and staff members


See also



  1. ^ a b "H.R.3092 - E. Clay Shaw, Jr. Missing Children's Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2013". Open Congress. Archived from the original on August 21, 2014.
  2. ^ "Key Facts". www.missingkids.org. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  3. ^ "Boy Still Missing After 5 Years, But Attitudes Change". AP NEWS. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  4. ^ missingkids.com
  5. ^ amberalert.gov
  6. ^ ncjrs.gov
  7. ^ Rodewald, Adam (August 5, 2013). "Unidentified murder victim a 'total nightmare' case for detectives". Archived from the original on July 14, 2015. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  8. ^ "Missing children group talks about creating sketch for Deer Island girl". My Fox Boston. Fox News. July 6, 2015. Archived from the original on July 10, 2015. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  9. ^ Profiles in Evil ISBN 978-0-70885449-5 p. 62
  10. ^ "The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children". missingkids.com. Archived from the original on October 29, 2012.
  11. ^ Clarity, James F.; Weaver Jr, Warren (September 26, 1985). "BRIEFING; All Hail Bear". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "National Expert Gives Opinion on Mendocino County Cold Case IDs". ukiahdailyjournal.com. February 5, 2016. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  13. ^ Twilight of Innocence: The Disappearance of Beverly Potts, ISBN 0-873-38836-4 pp. 178-180
  14. ^ "DOJ Seizes Backpage.com Weeks After Congress Passes Sex Trafficking Law". Forbes. April 6, 2018. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  15. ^ "NCMEC statement on #Backpage developments". Facebook. April 7, 2018. Archived from the original on February 26, 2022. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  16. ^ "S.4834 - PROTECT Our Children Act of 2022". Congress.gov. Retrieved December 15, 2022.
  17. ^ "Senate Passes Bill to Reauthorize Task Force Combating Child Exploitation". United States Senator for California Dianne Feinstein. November 17, 2022. Retrieved December 15, 2022.
  18. ^ "Bringing Hague Return Proceedings in the United States". Archived from the original on March 7, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  19. ^ "NCMEC Press Release". Archived from the original on January 11, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  20. ^ "Missing Children Website". Archived from the original on March 15, 2015.
  21. ^ "National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; Law & Legal Definition". uslegal.com.
  22. ^ "Missing Children Organizations; ICMEC (International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children)". Find Madeleine.
  23. ^ a b "The Creation of ICMEC". ICMEC. Archived from the original on December 5, 2014.
  24. ^ Donald F. Sprague (2012). Investigating Missing Children Cases: A Guide for First Responders and Investigators. CRC Press. pp. 167–68. ISBN 978-1439860632.
  25. ^ Babak Akhgar; Andrew Staniforth; Francesca Bosco (2014). Cyber Crime and Cyber Terrorism Investigator's Handbook. Syngress. p. 138. ISBN 978-0128008119.
  26. ^ "Contact Us". ICMEC. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015.
  27. ^ "About the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children". ICMEC. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015.
  28. ^ "Weekends in the Hamptons, weekdays in Manhattan". New York Social Diary. June 22, 2010.
  29. ^ Christopher Meyer (2011). DC Confidential. Orion Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1780220772.
  30. ^ "INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN GRANTED SPECIAL STATUS WITH UNITED NATIONS". August 12, 2008. Archived from the original on September 30, 2008.
  31. ^ Rhona Schuz (2014). The Hague Child Abduction Convention: A Critical Analysis. A&C Black. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-1782253082.
  32. ^ gpdg.co.uk
  33. ^ Lyons, Kim (August 6, 2021). "Apple VP acknowledges concerns about new scanning feature in internal memo". The Verge. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  34. ^ Edward Snowden [@snowden] (August 6, 2021). "No matter how well-intentioned, @Apple is rolling out mass surveillance to the entire world with this. Make no mistake: if they can scan for kiddie porn today, they can scan for anything tomorrow. They turned a trillion dollars of devices into iNarcs—*without asking.*" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  35. ^ Portnoy, India McKinney and Erica (August 5, 2021). "Apple's Plan to "Think Different" About Encryption Opens a Backdoor to Your Private Life". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  36. ^ Green, Matthew D.; Stamos, Alex (August 11, 2021). "Opinion | Apple Wants to Protect Children. But It's Creating Serious Privacy Risks". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  37. ^ Miller, Chance (August 6, 2021). "In internal memo, Apple addresses concerns around new Photo scanning features, doubles down on the need to protect children". 9to5Mac. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  38. ^ "Understanding NCMEC CyberTipline Reports". tracedf-new. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  39. ^ A list of electronic service providers (ESPs) -- with some statistics -- is provided publicly on the NCMEC web site, at "2019 Reports by Electronic Service Providers (ESP)" (PDF). www.missingkids.org. The CyberTipline of the NCMEC (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children). Archived (PDF) from the original on January 26, 2021. [quote:] << "NCMEC's CyberTipline is the nation's centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children, including child sexual abuse material, child sex trafficking and online enticement. In 2019, the CyberTipline received 16.9 million reports related to suspected child sexual exploitation. These reports contained 69.1 million videos, images and files.

    The following is a breakdown of reports by electronic service providers." >>
  40. ^ "18 U.S. Code § 2258A - Reporting requirements of providers". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  41. ^ "NCMEC Data". www.missingkids.com. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  42. ^ Weatherbed, Jess (February 27, 2023). "Meta backs new tool for removing sexual images of minors posted online". theverge.com.
  43. ^ The Great Tomato Adventure: A Story About Smart Safety Choices Archived June 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine