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National Missing Children's Day

National Missing Children's Day reminds us that children are easy prey for those who want to take them.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, over 800,000 adults and children are reported missing in the United States each year. If you divide 800,000 by 365 in a year, it equals a total of over 2,000 that go missing each day. Of that number, nearly 80% are children between the ages of 12 and 17.

Most missing children are found, many within a day or two of being reported. Some have gotten themselves lost, some run away from home, others are with friends or relatives, and some are, for whatever reasons, mistakenly reported missing.

But many are not found immediately and some are never found. Most people think children are taken by total strangers, and many are, but it has been reported that out of the total of all child abductions, only about 115 or more are abducted by total strangers.

Most missing children are taken by relatives, friends of the family, neighbors, or someone associated with the family. Some are taken while playing on the sidewalk in front of their homes, while at school, in the mall or at the park. Others are taken at birth from hospitals, restaurants, amusement parks, and some are taken from homes while their parents are asleep in the bedroom down the hall.

When a child goes missing, it is a traumatic experience that tugs at the heart and soul of both the child and their family. The child may be convinced that it's family is dead or no longer wants them and the family has to deal with the uncertainty of whether or not they will ever see their child again.

High profile cases such as that of Etan Patz, who was abducted in 1979, and Adam Walsh, who was abducted in 1981, the American public cried out for congress to pass laws to bring attention to the serious and growing problems that centered around missing children.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan established May 25th as National Missing Children's Day. The Missing Children's Assistance Act was passed by Congress in 1984 and that same year, the Reagan administration established the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was created to maintain the necessary resources to help plan and execute a strategy to keep all information about missing and exploited children circulated within the law enforcement community.

A 24-hour toll-free hotline was established, 1-800-THE-LOST, to give families way to report their missing children to law enforcement immediately.

In 1996, an nationwide emergency child abduction alert system, known as AMBER ALERT, was established to broadcast information regarding abducted children in real time. Named for Amber Hagerman, a 9 year old girl from Arlington, Texas who was kidnapped and murdered in 1996, AMBER ALERT provides information that goes out on electronic traffic condition signs, the internet, radio, e-mail, and television.

National Missing Children's Day reminds us that children are easy prey for those who want to take them. Law enforcement agencies around the country are working hand in hand with parents, schools, churches, government agencies, and other organizations to raise awareness about the plight of missing children and what can be done to prevent child abductions.

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