While the term "missing children" may seem clear, a close examination of the issue would reveal a spectrum of circumstances ranging from a misunderstanding about schedules to running away or being the victim of an abduction. Through the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART) and its follow-up, NISMART-2, CCRC researchers sought to create a unified estimate of the number and type of missing children. To accomplish this, NISMART-2 defined missing children as either caretaker missing - when a child is missing from their caretaker - or reported missing - when a child is missing from their caretaker and is reported missing to an agency for help locating them.
- The total number of children who were missing from their caretakers in 1999 (i.e., their caretakers did not know their wherabouts and were alarmed for at least an hour while trying to locate them) is estimated to be 1,315,600.
- The number of missing children who were reported missing (i.e., reported to the police or a missing children's agency in order to locate them) was estimated to be 797,500, which is equivalent to a rate of 11.4 children per 1,000 in the U.S. population.
- Nearly all of the caretaker missing children (non-reported) (99.8%) were returned home alive or located by the time the study data were collected.
Sources: Highlights from the NISMART Bulletins. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2002). Juvenile Justice Fact Sheet, Washington, DC.
Andrea J. Sedlak, David Finkelhor, Heather Hammer and Dana J. Schultz (2002). National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview. Juvenile Justice Bulletin–NCJ196465,1-12. Order #MC16
Hammer, H., Finkelhor, D., Sedlak, A.J., & Porcellini, L. (2004)
This bulletin presents results of a special analysis comparing selected findings from NISMART-2 and its predecessor, NISMART-1. The analysis, which is based on household surveys of adult caretakers and covers victims of family abductions, runaways, and children categorized as "lost, injured, or otherwise missing," highlights trends from 1988 to 1999 and reveals some encouraging news.
In the three categories considered, the analysis finds:
- No evidence of any increase in the incidence of missing children between 1988 and 1999.
- Decreases in the incidence rates for some types of episodes of missing children between 1988 and 1999.
Finkelhor, D., Hammer, H., & Sedlak, A.J. (2002).
This bulletin presents results from the initial analysis of nonfamily abduction data collected by NISMART-2. Among the key findings of the study are:
- During the study year (1999), there were an estimated 115 stereotypical kidnappings, defined as abductions perpetrated by a stranger or slight acquaintance and involving a child who was transported 50 or more miles, detained overnight, held for ransom or with the intent of keeping the child permanently, or killed.
- In 40% of stereotypical kidnappings, the child was killed, and in another 4%, the child was not recovered.
- There were an estimated 58,200 child victims of non-family abduction, defined more broadly to include all nonfamily perpetrators (friends and acquaintances as well as strangers) and crimes involving lesser amounts of forced movement or detention in addition to the more serious crimes entailed in stereotypical kidnappings.
- Teenagers were by far the most frequent victims of both stereotypical kidnappings and nonfamily abductions.
Sedlak, A.J., Finkelhor, D., Hammer, H., & Schultz, D.J. (2002).
This bulletin describes the NISMART-2 efforts to come to an estimate of the number of missing children in the United States.