When 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared on his way to school in New York City on May 25, 1979, there was no national response or database in place to aid in locating him. Two years later, when Adam Walsh, also 6, was abducted from a retail store, there was still no regional or national response system in place to help local law enforcement search for him.
These prominent missing children cases and others pushed Congress to enact the Missing Children’s Act in 1982 which mandated the entry of missing child information into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, known as NCIC. It was also the launching pad for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
National Missing Children’s Day was first proclaimed in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan and is observed every year on May 25, the anniversary of the disappearance of Etan, to encourage parents, guardians, caregivers and others concerned with the well-being of children to make child safety a priority.
“The search for Etan Patz has continued for more than three decades,” said Robert Lowery, vice president of the Missing Children’s Division at NCMEC. “We never forget a child no matter how long they have been missing. National Missing Children’s Day honors this commitment to help locate and recover missing children like Etan by reminding parents, guardians, families and communities that every child deserves a safe childhood.”
The good news is more missing children come home safely today than at any other point in history. As for Etan, his case may finally be on the verge of closure as the Manhattan District Attorney considers trying his case a second time after the recent trail against Pedro Hernandez ended in a mistrial. Regardless of the outcomes of the trial, Etan’s legacy lives on through the work of NCMEC each day and by bringing awareness to missing children each year on May 25.
“National Missing Children’s Day is a day to remember Etan and the many other missing children who are still out there – we never, ever stop looking,” Lowery said. “It is also a day to take action: Look at a poster of a missing child, share it or take time to talk with a child about safety.”
There are FOUR things you can do to help.
ONE: SHARE A POSTER
On National Missing Children’s Day this year, can you take a moment to share the poster of a missing child in your state? Just one small act can bring a child home safe. Sharing a child’s image is law enforcement’s single most effective tool in recovering missing children.
Click here to find a poster of a child missing in your state.
TWO: KNOW WHAT TO DO
Know what to do if your child goes missing. Create a child ID kit for each of your children and update it at least once a year.
THREE: TALK TO YOUR KIDS
Know what to tell your children about child abduction. Simply teaching your children about “stranger danger” may leave them vulnerable to other forms of child abduction. According to NCMEC’s research, teaching our children to avoid strangers is not enough. We must also teach them how to recognize and respond to risky situations. In fact, 83% of children who escaped their would-be abductors kicked, yelled and pulled away to escape.
Read more parent tips here on how to make sure your children are prepared.
FOUR: TEACH YOUR KIDS ONLINE SAFETY
More children age 12-17 are online and on mobile devices than any generation before. This poses a unique challenge for parents to ensure the safety of their children from online threats. NCMEC’s NetSmartz program provides tips and discussion topics for parents to teach their kids how to responsibly and safely use digital citizenship. There are also sections for teachers and law makers, as well as cartoons and comics for kids and teens here.
No matter how you get involved with Missing Children’s Day this year make sure you are doing something in the fight to #KeepKidsSafe. And remember, one small act can bring a child home safe.