Missing and Exploited Children: Background, Policies, and Issues
Missing and Exploited Children:
Background, Policies, and Issues
Updated August 1, 2008
Adrienne L. Fernandes
Analyst in Social Legislation
Domestic Social Policy Division
Missing and Exploited Children:
Background, Policies, and Issues
Beginning in the late 1970s, highly publicized cases of children abducted,
sexually abused, and often murdered prompted policymakers and child advocates to
declare a missing children problem. At that time, about one and a half million
children were reported missing annually. A more recent count, in 1999, estimated
that approximately 1.3 million children went missing from their caretakers that year
due to a family or nonfamily abduction, running away or being forced to leave home,
becoming lost or injured, or for benign reasons, such as a miscommunication about
schedules. About half of all missing children ran away or were forced to leave home,
and nearly all missing children were returned to their homes. The number of children
who are sexually exploited — defined broadly to include a continuum of abuse, from
child pornography to commercial sexual exploitation — is unknown. Verified
incidents of child sexual exploitation that were reported to the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) from 1998 to 2008 exceeded 181,000.
Recognizing the need for greater federal coordination of local and state efforts
to recover missing and exploited children, Congress created the Missing and
Exploited Children’s (MEC) program in 1984 under the Missing Children’s
Assistance Act (P.L. 98-473, Title IV of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention Act of 1974). The act directed the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office
of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to establish both a toll-free
number to report missing children and a national resource center for missing and
exploited children; coordinate public and private missing and exploited children’s
programs; and provide training and technical assistance to recover missing children.
Since 1984, NCMEC has served as the national resource center and has carried out
many the objectives of the act in collaboration with OJJDP.
The MEC program was last reauthorized by the Runaway, Homeless, and
Missing Children Protection Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-96) through FY2008. In addition
to funding NCMEC, the program currently supports the Internet Crimes Against
Children (ICAC) Task Force program to assist state and local law enforcement cyber
units investigate online child sexual exploitation; technical assistance for the
AMBER Alert System, which coordinates state efforts to broadcast bulletins in the
most serious child abduction cases; and training, through NCMEC’s Jimmy Ryce
Law Enforcement Training Center, for law enforcement and prosecutors. For
FY2008, Congress appropriated $50.0 million for the MEC program.
On May 24, 2007, Representative Lampson introduced Protecting Our Children
Comes First Act of 2007 (H.R. 2517) to reauthorize the MEC program. The bill
passed the House on December 5, 2007. Senator Leahy introduced similar legislation
(S. 1829) on July 19, 2007, but the Senate ultimately took up and passed H.R. 2517
on May 20, 2008. On June 3, 2008, the President signed H.R. 2517 into law as P.L.
110-240. Issues that were relevant to reauthorization efforts, and continue to be
pertinent, include the collection of data on missing and exploited children, among
other issues. This report will be updated as relevant legislative and funding activities
FY2009 Budget Proposal .......................................5
FY2008 Appropriations Finalized.................................5
Legislation in the 110th Congress on Missing and Exploited Children.....6
In troduction ......................................................7
Demographics of Missing and Exploited Children........................9
Incidents of Missing Children: Trends.............................13
Defining Child Sexual Exploitation...............................14
Incidents of Child Sexual Exploitation............................15
Description and Funding of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Program...16
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.....................20
Missing Children’s Services....................................20
International Missing Children’s Cases............................24
Exploited Children’s Division...................................25
Family Advocacy Services......................................28
Training and Technical Assistance...............................29
Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force....................32
AMBER Alert Program............................................33
Block Grant Proposed Under FY2009 Budget.......................36
National Emergency Child Locator Center.........................38
Children Missing From Foster Care...............................40
Appendix A: Demographics of Missing and Exploited Children............44
Definitions of Missing Children.................................44
Incidents of Missing and Non-Missing Children.....................45
Characteristics of Missing Children ..............................45
Missing Incident Effects on Victims and Their Families ..............48
Incidents of Child Sexual Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation........49
Causes and Effects of Child Sexual Exploitation....................52
Appendix B: Federal Criminal Code Provisions Governing
Child Sexual Exploitation......................................54
Appendix C: The Missing Children’s Act of 1984 and
Amendments to the Act........................................57
Appendix D: Map of Statewide, Regional, and Local AMBER
Alert Plans, as of May 1, 2007...................................61
Appendix E: Other Federal Activities for Missing Children and
Child Sexual Exploitation......................................62
Department of Justice.........................................62
Department of Homeland Security................................65
U.S. Postal Service............................................66
Department of State...........................................66
Appendix F: CRS Reports on Missing and Exploited Children
and Related Topics............................................68
List of Figures
Figure 1. Reported Missing and Caretaker Missing,
by Missing Category, 1999.....................................12
Figure 2. Funding for the Missing and Exploited Children’s Program,
Select Years from FY1985 to FY2007 ............................18
Figure 3. Missing Children Services Case Activity, 1990 to 2006...........22
Figure A1. Categories of Missing Children.............................44
Figure A2. AMBER Alert Plans.....................................61
List of Tables
Table 1. Missing and Exploited Children’s Program Funding
by Component, FY2003 to FY2008...............................19
Table A1. Missing and Non-Missing Children..........................45
Missing and Exploited Children:
Background, Policies, and Issues
On May 24, 2007, Representative Lampson introduced Protecting Our Children
Comes First Act of 2007 (H.R. 2517) to reauthorize the Missing and Exploited
Children’s (MEC) program for FY2008 through FY2013. The bill was referred to the
Education and Labor Committee, and on December 5, 2007, the House voted to
approve the bill under suspension of the rules. On July 19, 2007, Senator Leahy
introduced similar legislation, Protect Our Children First Act of 2007 (S. 1829),
which was also referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. H.R. 2517 was received
in the Senate and referred to the Judiciary Committee on December 5, 2007. The
committee discharged H.R. 2517 under unanimous consent, and the Senate passed
the bill, also under unanimous consent, on May 20, 2008. President Bush signed H.R.
P.L. 110-240 authorizes appropriations of $40 million for FY2008 and such
sums as necessary for FY2009 through FY2013, for the Administrator of the Office
of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the office that administers
the MEC program, to fund activities carried out by the National Center for Missing
and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the federal clearinghouse and resource center on
missing and exploited children’s issues. Over that same period (FY2008 through
FY2013), the MEC program — composed of four other components besides NCMEC
— is authorized to receive such sums as necessary.1
The law also adds new findings to the Missing Children’s Assistance Act,
including that (1) growing numbers of children are the victims of child sexual
exploitation, increasingly involving the use of new technologies to access the
Internet; (2) children may be separated from their parents or legal guardians as the
result of natural disasters; (3) sex offenders pose a threat to children; (4) OJJDP
administers programs under the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, including
programs that prevent or address offenses committed against vulnerable children and
that support missing children’s organizations, and (5) a key component of these
programs is NCMEC. P.L. 110-240 also includes other findings that already existed
under current law.
1 The Runaway, Homeless, and Missing Children Protection Act (P.L. 108-96) authorized
appropriations for the MEC program from FY2004 through FY2008. P.L. 110-240 also
authorizes appropriations for FY2008 for the MEC program.
P.L. 110-240 authorizes funding for many of the activities that were already
carried out by NCMEC and codified in law as the law existed before P.L. 110-240
was enacted. These activities were re-codified to accommodate adding other
authorized NCMEC activities to the law, and include the following:
!coordinating the operation of the existing, national missing children
24-hour, toll-free telephone line with the operation of the national
runaway hotline, authorized under the Runaway and Homeless
!operating the official national resource center and information
clearinghouse for missing and exploited children;
!providing to state and local governments, public and private
nonprofit agencies, and individuals information about free or low-
cost legal and other resources for missing children and their families,
as well as federal programs for these children and families;
!coordinating public and private programs that locate, recover, or
reunite missing children with their families;
!disseminating, on a national basis, information relating to innovative
and model programs, services, and legislation that benefit missing
and exploited children; and
!providing technical assistance and training to law enforcement
agencies and other entities in the prevention, investigation,
prosecution, and treatment of cases involving missing and exploited
Further, P.L. 110-240 authorizes funding to modify certain activities that were
carried out by NCMEC and codified in the law prior to the enactment of P.L. 110-
!Missing Children’s Hotline. P.L. 110-240 specifies that NCMEC
funding is to be used to operate a national 24-hour, toll-free
telephone line by which individuals may report information
regarding the location of a missing child and request information on
the procedures necessary to reunite a missing child with his or her
legal custodian. This language deletes reference to a missing
children’s hotline to report or request information for a missing child
aged 13 years or younger. According to NCMEC, in practice, the
organization provides services and support to recover any missing
child under age 18 (and to youth ages 18 to 21 on a limited basis).3
2 42 U.S.C. §4701 et seq.
3 This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by NCMEC in June
!National and International Missing Incidents. Under the law that
existed before P.L. 110-240 was enacted, NCMEC was directed to
provide assistance to families and law enforcement agencies in
locating and recovering missing and exploited children, both
nationally and internationally. P.L. 110-240 added that NCMEC
must consult with the Department of State on international cases.
NCMEC currently coordinates its effort to locate missing children
abroad with the State Department. See “International Missing
Children’s Cases,” below, for additional information.
! CyberTipline: Under the law that existed before P.L. 110-240 was
enacted, NCMEC was authorized to coordinate the CyberTipline, its
reporting hotline for incidents of child sexual exploitation, under
three categories: the distribution of child pornography, online
enticement of children for sexual acts, and child prostitution. P.L.
110-240 authorizes NCMEC to take reports of additional categories
of child sexual exploitation. These categories are already included
as part of the CyberTipline and include possession, manufacture, and
distribution of child pornography; sex tourism involving children;
extrafamilial child sexual molestation; unsolicited obscene material
sent to a child; misleading domain names; and misleading words or
digital images on the Internet. See “Incidents of Child Sexual
Exploitation,” below, for additional information.
Finally, the legislation authorizes funding for activities that were not specified
in law as it existed before P.L. 110-240 was enacted, but were already carried out
by NCMEC. These activities include the following.
!Engaging in data collection efforts for information on missing
children and characteristics of missing episodes. The reauthorization
law permits NCMEC to annually report to OJJDP missing children
data but not to engage in data collection other than receiving reports
about missing children. Specifically, NCMEC is to report the
number of children nationwide who are reported to NCMEC as
missing, victims of non-family child abductions, victims of parental
kidnappings, and the number of youth nationwide recovered. The
bill does not specify whether data are to be collected or reported on
the number of children who are sexually exploited.
!Providing analytical support and technical assistance to law
enforcement agencies by searching public records databases in
locating and recovering missing and exploited children and helping
to locate and identify abductors. NCMEC currently provides this
service, primarily with school records.
!Providing direct on-site technical assistance and consultation to local
law enforcement agencies with child abduction and exploitation
cases. NCMEC currently provides this service through Team Adam
and Project ALERT, described below under “Missing Children’s
!Providing forensic technical assistance and consultation to law
enforcement and other agencies in the identification of unidentified
deceased children through facial reconstruction of skeletal remains
and similar techniques. NCMEC currently carries out these services
through the Forensic Assistance Unit, described below under
“Missing Children’s Services.”
!Tracking the incidence of attempted child abductions in order to
identify links and patterns and to provide such information to law
enforcement agencies. NCMEC currently collects data on child
!Providing training and assistance to law enforcement agencies in
identifying and locating non-compliant sex offenders. These
activities are currently carried out by NCMEC’s Sex Offender
Tracking Team, described below under “Exploited Children’s
!Facilitating the deployment of the National Emergency Child
Locator Center to assist in recruiting missing children with their
families during periods of national disaster. NCMEC developed the
center in 2006 and 2007 with support from the Department of
Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA). See “Issues,” below, for additional information.
!Working with law enforcement, Internet service providers, electronic
payment service providers, and others on methods to reduce the
distribution on the Internet of images and videos of sexually
exploited children. NCMEC is part of the Financial Coalition
Against Child Pornography, composed of major Internet companies
and other entities, to interdict child pornography images. See
!Operating a child victim identification program in order to assist the
efforts of law enforcement agencies. NCMEC’s Child Victim
Identification Program, described under “Exploited Children’s
Division,” provides this service.
!Developing and disseminating programs and information to the
general public, schools, and other entities about the prevention of
child abduction, sexual exploitation, or Internet safety. Currently,
NCMEC provides this training through its community outreach
efforts, described under “Partnerships.”
FY2009 Budget Proposal
As with the FY2008 budget, the Administration’s FY2009 budget request does
not provide a specific sum of funding for the MEC program.4 The budget proposes
to consolidate grants now authorized under the Missing Children’s Assistance Act,
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, Victims of Child Abuse Act, and
other acts into a “single flexible grant program,” and OJP would use the funds to
make competitive discretionary grants to assist state and local governments “in
addressing multiple child safety and juvenile justice needs to reduce incidents of
child exploitation and abuse, including those facilitated by the use of computers and
the Internet, improve juvenile justice outcomes, and address school safety needs.”5
On June 23, 2008, the Senate Committee on Appropriations reported the
FY2009 appropriations bill (S. 3182) for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and
Science (CJS) and related agencies. The committee recommends that the OJP
programs not be merged and that Congress appropriate $75.0 million for the MEC
program, with $30.0 million for NCMEC and the remaining funding divided among
the program as a whole.6 The House Committee on Appropriations approved a draft
version of its CJS appropriations bill on June 25, 2008, but the bill has not been filed.
FY2008 Appropriations Finalized
On June 28, 2007, the Senate Committee on Appropriations reported the
FY2008 appropriations bill (S. 1745) for CJS and related agencies. The committee
recommended $65.0 million for the MEC program.7 The House Committee on
Appropriations reported its version of the bill (H.R. 3093) on July 12, and
recommended $61.4 million for the program.
The House and Senate CJS FY2008 appropriations bills were consolidated with
other appropriations bills into H.R. 2764 (the original State-Foreign Operations
Appropriations Act for FY2008) as the vehicle for an omnibus appropriations for
FY2008. H.R. 2764 was signed into law as P.L. 110-161 and provides $50.0 million
for the MEC program, an increase of $250,000 from the FY2007 level.
4 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, FY2009 Performance Budget, pp.
5 U.S. Department of Justice, FY2008 Performance Budget, Office of Justice Programs, pp.
6 The accompanying Senate report provides conflicting information about the level of
funding Congress should appropriate to the MEC program. The report specifies both $70
million and $75 million for the program. See U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on
Appropriations. Departments of Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Appropriations Bill, FY2009. Report to accompany S. 3182. 110th Congress, 1st session.
S.Rept. 110-397. Washington, GPO: 2008.
7 U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Appropriations. Departments of Commerce,
Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY2008. Report to accompanythst
S. 1745. 110 Congress, 1 session. S.Rept. 110-124. Washington, GPO: 2007.
Legislation in the 110th Congress on
Missing and Exploited Children8
In addition to the MEC program reauthorization legislation, four other bills have
been introduced in the 110th Congress that would amend the MEC program or make
The Bring Our Children Home Act (H.R. 2518) would amend the Missing
Children’s Assistance Act (which authorizes the MEC program) to assist state and
local entities in locating non-citizen children under age 18 who are missing in the
United States. The legislation would also amend the International Child Abduction
Remedies Act to provide legal assistance for the victims of parental kidnappings,
among other supports for victims. The Audrey Nerenburg Act (H.R. 271) would
expand the definition of “missing child” under the Missing Children’s Assistance Act
to include an individual whose mental capacity is less than 18 years of age as
determined by an appropriate medical authority and whose whereabouts are unknown
to the individual’s legal custodian. The Combating Child Exploitation Act of 2007
(S. 1738) and the PROTECT Our Children Act (H.R. 3845) would create a special
counsel for child exploitation prevention and interdiction in the Office of the Deputy
Assistant General and expand the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task
Other legislation would modify the duties of NCMEC. The Securing
Adolescents from Exploitation-Online (SAFE) Act (H.R. 876/H.R. 3791/S. 1519)
would amend Title 18 (Crimes and Criminal Procedure Code) to require electronic
service providers and remote computing service providers to report child
pornography and characteristics of the incident (i.e., geography location of individual
and website, information about the individual) to NCMEC, among other
requirements. The Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act of 2007 (S. 1965) and
Responsive and Effective Solutions for Children Using and Entering Online Services
Act of 2007 (H.R. 3850) authorize NCMEC to provide images and or other relevant
information reported to its Cyber Tipline to an electronic communication service
provider or a remote computing service provider only to stop the further transmission
of the images and to develop anti-child pornographic technologies and related
industry best practices, among other provisions related to promoting Internet safety.9
The Protect Our Children First Act (S. 1829), the bill reauthorizing the MEC
program, and the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007 (H.R. 923)
enable any Inspector General to authorize staff to assist NCMEC by conducting
8 This section may omit pending legislation relevant to missing and exploited children.
9 The bill would also authorize the Federal Trade Commission to carry out a nationwide
public awareness campaign to promote safe use of the Internet by children and to provide
information about Internet safety to all state and local governments and other entities. In
addition, the bill directs the Department of Commerce to establish an Online Safety and
Technology working group — composed of representatives of relevant sectors of the
business community, public interest groups, and other appropriate groups and federal
agencies — to review and evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety and to develop
technologies that enable parents to supervise their children on the Internet, among other
reviews of inactive case files to develop recommendations for further investigation
and engaging in similar activities.
Finally, the Child Protection Improvements Act of 2008 (S. 2756/H.R. 5606)
would authorize a background screening program of volunteers and employees of
youth-serving entities, including a business or organization that provides care, care
placement, supervision, instruction, and other activities on behalf of children. The
bills would also authorize a fitness determination program, to be administered by
NCMEC, that would make determinations about whether the criminal history record
information conducted under the background screening program would render a
volunteer or employee unfit to interact with children. NCMEC currently provides this
service under a pilot program authorized under the PROTECT Act (P.L. 108-21). An
amendment to S. 2756 on May 22, 2008, would omit language authorizing NCMEC
to conduct the fitness determination. The amendment would direct the Attorney
General to enter into an agreement with NCMEC to establish a criminal history
resource center that assists participating entities in assessing criminal history records.
Other legislation includes general provisions related to missing and exploited
children. One of these bills addresses the issue of infants kidnapped from hospitals
reimbursed under Medicare: the Infant Protection and Baby Switching Prevention
Act of 2007 (H.R. 257). Other legislation involves protecting children on the
Internet. These bills are the Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of
2007 (H.R. 719), Enhancing the Efficient Prosecution of Child Pornography Act of
2007 (H.R. 4136); and Safeguarding America’s Families by Enhancing and
Reorganizing New and Efficient Technologies Act of 2007 (H.R. 3461). Another bill,
A Child Is Missing Recovery and Alert Center Act (H.R. 5464/S. 2667) would
provide an annual grant to A Child is Missing, a non-profit advocacy group for
missing children, to operate an alert center about missing children. The Combating
Child Exploitation Act of 2007 (S. 1738) and the PROTECT Our Children Act (H.R.
3845) would create a special counsel for child exploitation prevention and
interdiction in the Office of the Deputy Assistant General and authorize the Internet
Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force program. The Protecting Children from
Pornography and Internet Exploitation Act of 2008 (S. 3344) would also authorize
the ICAC Task Force Program, among other changes intended to protect children
from sexual exploitation.
During the 1970s and 1980s, highly publicized cases of children abducted,
sexually abused, and often murdered prompted policymakers and child advocates to
declare a missing children problem. At that time, advocates estimated that one and
a half million children were reported missing annually, and that some children who
did go missing were sexually exploited. In some parts of the country, non-profit
organizations formed by the parents of missing children were often the only entities
that organized recovery efforts and provided counseling for victimized families.
Recognizing the need for greater federal coordination of local and state efforts
to assist missing and exploited children and to publicize information about this
population, Congress created the Missing and Exploited Children’s (MEC) program
in 1984 under the Missing Children’s Assistance Act (P.L. 98-473, Title IV of the
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974).10 The act directed the U.S.
Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
(OJJDP) within OJP to establish both a toll-free number to report missing children
and a national resource center and clearinghouse to provide information; coordinate
public and private missing and exploited children’s programs; and provide training
and technical assistance related to missing children. Since 1984, the National Center
for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a non-profit organization located in
Alexandria, Virginia, has carried out these duties in collaboration with OJJDP.
The MEC program was authorized to receive funding through FY2008 by the
Runaway, Homeless, and Missing Children Protection Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-96).
The Protecting Our Children Comes First Act (P.L. 110-240) authorizes funding for
from FY2009 through FY2013. NCMEC is the primary component of the program
and supports a range of activities authorized under the Missing Children’s Assistance
Act and other federal legislation.11 The MEC program also supports (1) the Internet
Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force program to assist state and local
enforcement cyber units to investigate online child sexual exploitation; (2) technical
assistance for the AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response)
Alert System, which coordinates local and regional efforts to broadcast bulletins in
the most serious child abduction cases, and other missing and exploited children’s
programs; (3) training, through NCMEC’s Jimmy Ryce Law Enforcement Training
Center, for state and local agencies that serve missing and exploited children; and (4)
administration of the program. In FY2008, Congress appropriated $50 million for the
This report begins with an overview of the scope of the missing and exploited
children issue, including definitions and approximate numbers of children known to
be missing or exploited. This section also discusses the limitations of data on
missing and exploited youth. The report then provides information about the MEC
program’s funding, oversight, and major components. Finally, the report discusses
issues that may be relevant to the MEC program. These issues include
!the creation of the National Emergency Child Missing Locator
Center at NCMEC that will provide assistance to jurisdictions
!the potential need for current and region-specific data on missing
children and comprehensive, nationally-representative studies of
sexually exploited children;
!children missing from foster care; and
10 The MEC program is codified at §5771 et seq.
11 NCMEC coordinates and is involved with several federal activities relating to missing
and exploited children. Many of these activities are funded from sources other than the
MEC program, although the largest share of federal funds for NCMEC is through the
The end of the report includes several appendices. Appendix A provides
additional information about the demographics of missing and exploited children and
the causes and effects of missing and sexual exploitation incidents on victims and
families. Appendix B enumerates prosecutable acts of sexual exploitation under
federal law. Appendix C presents the major provisions of the Missing Children’s
Assistance Act of 1984 and amendments to the act. Appendix D includes a map of
state, regional, and local AMBER Alert programs, as of May 2007. Appendix E
describes federal efforts to combat sexual exploitation across multiple agencies, such
as Project Safe Childhood (U.S. Attorney’s Office), Innocent Images National
Initiative (FBI), and Operation Child Predator (Immigration and Customs
Enforcement Agency), among others. Appendix F provides a list of CRS reports on
issues related to the MEC program.
Demographics of Missing
and Exploited Children
Missing children and exploited children are distinct but overlapping
populations. The term “missing child” is defined under the Missing Children’s
Assistance Act as an individual under age 18 whose whereabouts are unknown to that12
individual’s legal custodian. Children who go missing — and children who are not
missing — may be sexually exploited. Although the act does not define child sexual
exploitation, OJJDP characterizes sexual exploitation as the use of a child for the
sexual gratification of an adult.13 Federal statutes (both criminal and civil) also
specify acts of sexual exploitation for purposes of prosecuting offenders and
providing minimum standards of child abuse for states to use in their own definitions
of child abuse.
The current number of missing or exploited children is unknown. The Missing
Children’s Assistance Act requires OJJDP to periodically conduct incidence studies
of the number of missing children, the number of children missing due to a stranger
abduction or parental abduction, and the number of missing children who are14
recovered. Since the act’s passage in 1984, two national incidence studies have
been conducted. However, the studies are dated (one was conducted in 1988 and the
other in 1999) and provide little information about children who were exploited
12 This definition is codified at 42 U.S.C. §5772. It was changed in 2006 under P.L. 109-248.
Previously, the definition included an individual under age 18 whose whereabouts are
unknown to that individual’s legal custodian if (a) the circumstances surrounding his or her
disappearance indicate that the individual may possibly have been removed by another
individual from the control of his or her legal custodian without the custodian’s consent or
(b) the circumstances of the case strongly indicate that the individual is likely to be abused
and sexually exploited.
13 This definition was provided to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) by the Office
of Justice Programs in May 2007.
14 42 U.S.C. §5773(c).
during a missing episode. (Limitations of the data set are discussed in the “Issues”
section of this report.)
As discussed below, the 1999 study indicates that of the 1.3 million children
who went missing that year, most had run away from home or were forced to leave
their home, and nearly all were returned to their caretakers. Cases of serious
nonfamily abductions, in which the child is transported and held for ransom or killed,
are rare. The discussion below indicates that the true number of child sexual
exploitation incidents is unknown because of the secrecy around exploitation.
NISMART-1. The first national incidence study of missing children, known as
the National Incidence Study of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway
Children (commonly known as NISMART-1), was conducted in 1988 pursuant to
the Missing Children’s Assistance Act. NISMART-1 provided the first nationally
representative comprehensive data on the incidence of missing children. Unlike
previous sources of missing children data, the study provided two counts of children
who were missing. One count was based on whether a parent considered the child
missing, regardless of the seriousness of the incident, and another was based on
whether law enforcement considered a missing child at risk and in need of immediate15
The study classified five categories of missing children: (1) children who were
missing because they were lost, injured, or did not adequately communicate with
their caretakers about their whereabouts; (2) children abducted by family members;
(3) children abducted by non-family members; (4) runaways; and (5) “thrownaways”
forced to leave their homes. NISMART-1 did not aggregate the number of missing
children across these categories because researchers viewed each category as distinct
from other categories. Researchers also raised concerns that some children were not
literally missing because caretakers knew of their children’s location, but could not
NISMART-2. NISMART-2 attempted to resolve some of the methodological
challenges of NISMART-1.16 Based on policymakers’ views that missing children
(even those not literally missing because their parents knew their whereabouts) share
a common experience, data for all missing children were aggregated for “caretaker
15 David Finkelhor, Gerald Hotaling, and Andrea J. Sedlak, Missing, Abducted, Runaway,
and Thrownaway Children in America, First Report: Numbers and Characteristics National
Incidence Studies, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention, May 1990.
16 NISMART-2 combined data from four sources: the National Household Survey of Adult
Caretakers, the National Household Survey of Youth, Law Enforcement Study, and Juvenile
Facilities Study. Each sampled child was counted only once in the unified estimate. See
Andrea J. Sedlak et al., National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview, U.S.
Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, October
(Hereafter referred to as Sedlak et al., National Estimates of Missing Children.)
missing” and “reported missing” cases. For an episode to qualify as “caretaker
missing,” the child’s whereabouts must have been unknown to the primary caretaker,
with the result that the caretaker was alarmed for at least one hour and tried to locate
the child. In this circumstance, a child could have been missing for benign reasons,
such as miscommunication about schedules. A “caretaker missing” child was
considered “reported missing” if a caretaker contacted the police or a missing
children’s agency to locate the child.17
NISMART-2 added to and combined some of the missing children categories
created in NISMART-1.18 “Missing benign” was added as a category to describe a
child who goes missing due to a miscommunication and is not in any danger. The
survey consolidated the runaway and thrownaway categories that had been separate
in NISMART-1. NISMART-2 researchers determined that the categorization of each
type of runaway or thrownaway episode frequently depended on whether information
was gathered from the children (who tended to emphasize the thrownaway aspects
of the episode) or their caretakers (who tended to emphasize the runaway aspects).19
Findings from NISMART-2. NISMART-2 combined the data across the five
categories to calculate a total number for both caretaker missing and reported missing
episodes. The survey found that 1,315,600 children were missing based on the
caretaker missing definition. In about 798,000 (61%) of these cases, parents reported
their child missing to the police or a missing children’s agency. Nearly all (99.8%)
caretaker missing children were recovered. Only 2,500 (0.2%)”caretaker missing”
children had not returned home or been located, and the majority of these children20
were runaways from institutions.
Figure 1 below summarizes the number of caretaker missing and reported
missing incidents within the five missing children categories: (1) nonfamily
abductions; (2) family abductions; (3) missing involuntary, lost, or injured; (4)
missing benign; and (5) runaway or thrownaway. Children who were missing under
multiple categories are included in every category that applies to them. About 36,500
(3%) children experienced more than one type of caretaker missing incident during
the year. Therefore, the total number of caretaker missing incidents combined across
episodes is 1,352,100. Approximately 31,00 (4%) children experienced more than
one type of reported missing incident during the year. Therefore, the total number
of reported missing incidents is 828,600.
17 Some children reported in NISMART-2 were missing, but their caretakers may not have
been alarmed or contacted authorities; these children were identified as “non-missing.” See
Appendix A for a further discussion of non-missing children.
18 See Appendix A for a description of the NISMART-2 missing children categories.
19 Heather Hammer, David Finkelhor, and Andrea J. Sedlak, Runaway/Thrownaway
Children: National Estimates and Characteristics, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, October 2002, p. 2. The report is available
20 Hammer, Finkelhor, and Sedlak, National Estimates of Missing Children, p. 6.
Figure 1. Reported Missing and Caretaker Missing,
by Missing Category, 1999
Reported MissingCaretaker Missing
1, 352, 100
828, 6001, 400, 000
1, 200, 000ildr
628, 9001, 000, 000h
33, 000 56, 500 61, 900400, 000nts
ns tion s e d n ay
cti o duc In ju r at io Aw des
bdu Ab or planownpiso
mily Aamily Lost,gn Exy/Thr of E
-Fa F tary, e ni awa ypes
Nonluning BRunAll T
nvo Mi ss
Source: Congressional Research Service presentation of data
provided in Table 3 in Andrea J. Sedlak et al., National Estimates of
Missing Children: An Overview, U.S. Department of Justice, Office
of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, October 2002, p. 6.
Note: This figure reflects individual missing children and not cases
of missing children. Therefore, it omits the approximately 36,500
(3%) children who experienced more than one type of caretaker
missing incident during the year and the approximately 31,00 (4%)
children who experienced more than one type of reported missing
incident during the year.
Nearly half of the caretaker missing children and 45% of the reported missing
children in NISMART-2 had run away or were forced to leave their homes.21
Children missing due to benign reasons comprised the next largest share in both
categories: 28% in the caretaker missing category and 43% in the reported missing
category. Family abductions made up 9% of the caretaker missing children
population and 7% of the reported missing children population. Finally, nonfamily
abductions comprised 3% of caretaker missing children and 2% of reported missing
21 Sedlak et al., National Estimates of Missing Children, p. 7.
Stereotypical kidnapping — in which a stranger or slight acquaintance detained
the child overnight, traveled at least 50 miles, and held the child for ransom or killed
the child — is a type of nonfamily abduction. Extensive media coverage about
stereotypical kidnapping cases, such as those involving Adam Walsh (1981), Polly
Klaas (1993), and Elizabeth Smart (2002), may contribute to the belief that these
missing children incidents are common. However, such cases are rare. With the
caveat that NISMART-2 data on stereotypical kidnappings are not entirely reliable
because estimates are based on too few sample cases, about 90 of the reported
missing nonfamily abduction victims in 1999 experienced a stereotypical kidnapping
(this information is not shown in Figure 1).22 Although nonfamily abductions rarely
result in more serious cases, children who are not recovered immediately in such
cases are at increased risk of becoming harmed. Studies show that the first three
hours after an abduction are the most crucial for the recovery of the child. Just over
NISMART-2 shows that children missing in 1999 tended to be teenagers, male,
and white. About half (45% of caretaker missing and 44% of reported missing) of
missing children were between the ages of 15 and 17. The next largest share of
children (31% and 30%) were between the ages of 12 and 14 in both categories,
followed by children ages 6 to 11 (13% and 14%) and children 0 to 5 (11% and
12%). A disproportionate share, 57% of the caretaker missing children and 51% of
the reported missing children, were male. Though whites made up the greatest
proportion (57% and 54%) of missing children, they were underrepresented
compared to their share of the total U.S. population; black (16% and 19%) and
Hispanic (18% and 21%) children were overrepresented.
Incidents of Missing Children: Trends
Not all questions in the surveys used in NISMART-1 and NISMART-2 were
identical, and in some instances, the question format was changed for the second24
study. For these reasons, report findings for each type of missing category cannot
be compared. However, data for certain types of categories are commensurate
between the two studies — children abducted by family members, runaways, and
children categorized as lost, injured, or missing for other reasons. Applying the
NISMART-1 definitions of “broad scope” and “policy focal” to data from both
22 David Finkelhor, Heather Hammer, and Andrea J. Sedlak, Nonfamily Abducted Children:
National Estimates and Characteristics, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention, October 2002, p. 6;available at [http://www.ncjrs.gov/
pdffiles1/ojjdp/196467.pdf]. (Hereafter referred to as Finkelhor, Hammer, Sedlak,
Nonfamily Abducted Children.)
23 Katherine M. Brown et al. Case Management for Missing Children Homicide
Investigation, Office of the Attorney General, State of Washington and U.S. Department of
Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, May 2006, p. 13; available
24 Heather Hammer et al., National Estimates of Missing Children: Selected Trends, 1989-
surveys, researchers found that the incidence of missing children in the three
categories decreased between 1988 and 1999 for “broad scope” cases and remained
about the same for “policy focal” cases.25 (“Broad scope” classified a missing
incident the way affected families defined it, and included both serious and minor
episodes that might be more alarming to parents, and a “policy focal” definition
classified a missing incident from the point of view of the police or other missing
Defining Child Sexual Exploitation
As discussed above, child sexual exploitation refers to the use of a child for the
sexual gratification of an adult, and a child can be exploited regardless of whether he
or she goes missing.26 This definition reflects a continuum of exploitation ranging
from child sexual molestation to the production of child pornography and trafficking
of children for sexual purposes. Both Title 18 (Crimes and Criminal Procedure) and
Title 42 (Public Health and Welfare) of the U.S. Code address sexually exploitative
acts involving children. Federal offenses that are prosecutable under Title 18
include, but are not limited to, the following:
!Possession, production, and distribution of child pornography and
obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children;
!Transfer of obscene material to a child;
!Prostitution of children;
!Sex tourism involving children;
!Selling or buying of children for exploitation; and
!Providing a misleading Internet domain name.27
Title 42 provides two types of definitions related to child sexual exploitation.
First, 42 U.S.C. §5101, as enacted by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
(CAPTA, P.L. 93-247), provides the minimum standards of child abuse — including
child sexual abuse — that states must incorporate into their statutory definitions of
child abuse and neglect in order to be eligible to receive CAPTA funds.28 According
to CAPTA, the term “sexual abuse” includes “(1) the employment, use, persuasion,
inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or to assist any other
25 Ibid, p. 2.
26 This information is based on Congressional Research Service correspondence with Office
of Justice Programs in May 2007. See also David Finkelhor et al., A Sourcebook on Child
Sexual Abuse (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1984), pp. 22-27 and Richard J. Estes, The
Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Working Guide to the Empirical Literature, August
27 Appendix B includes a more complete list of federal statutes governing child pornography
and enticement crimes under Title 18.
28 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway,
Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws, January 2005; see
referred to as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Definitions of Child Abuse
person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for
the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or (2) the rape, and in
cases of inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other
form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.” Guardians of
children under age 18 who are investigated for engaging in these acts or failing to
adequately protect their children from such acts may be penalized under state civil
and criminal procedures governing child abuse and neglect.
Second, specified crimes of sexual exploitation are defined under 42 U.S.C.
§16911, as enacted by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006
(P.L. 109-248).29 The law modified federal guidelines for state programs that require
individuals convicted of crimes against children or sexually violent crimes to register
his or her address. Specified crimes of sexual exploitation requiring offender
registration include criminal sexual conduct against a minor; solicitation of a minor
to engage in sexual conduct; use of a minor in a sexual performance; solicitation of
a minor to practice prostitution; video voyeurism (such as watching a child on a web-
cam); possession, production, and distribution of child pornography; criminal sexual
conduct involving a minor or the use of the Internet to facilitate or attempt such
conduct; and any conduct that by its nature is a sex offense against a minor.
Incidents of Child Sexual Exploitation
NISMART-2 did not collect data on incidents of child sexual exploitation
except as they accompanied cases of nonfamily member abductions or precipitated
runaway or thrownaway events. The true number of sexual exploitation incidents —
whether they accompany missing children cases or not — is not known because the
abuse often goes undetected. Nonetheless, data collected by NCMEC provide some
evidence about the prevalence of sexual exploitation.30
Incidents Reported to the NCMEC CyberTipline. A measure of the
prevalence of child sexual exploitation is the number of verified incidents reported
to NCMEC’s CyberTipline. The CyberTipline began in March 1998 to serve 24
hours a day, seven days a week as the national clearinghouse for tips and leads about31
child sexual exploitation. The tipline allows individuals and electronic
communication service providers (ESPs) to report incidents of (1) child pornography,
29 This program was originally created under the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children
Act and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act at 42 U.S.C. §14701 (Title XVII of the
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, P.L. 103-322). For additional
information about the federal sexual offender program, see CRS Report RL32800, Sex
Offender Registration and Community Notification Law: Enforcement and Other Issues, by
30 Researchers have provided estimates of the number of children in the child welfare system
who were sexually exploited and the number of children at risk of sexual exploitation via
the Internet and commercial sexual exploitation (see Appendix A for information about
31 NCMEC’s role as administrator of the CyberTipline was authorized by the Prosecutorial
Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of
(2) child prostitution, (3) child sex tourism, (4) child sexual molestation (not in the
family), and (5) online enticement of children for sexual acts. The CyberTipline also
takes reports of misleading domain names and unsolicited obscene materials sent to
children, which are referred to the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and
Obscenity Section (CEOS) in the Criminal Division (see Appendix E for
information about CEOS).
From 1998 through December 2007, the CyberTipline received 546,614 reports32
of child sexual exploitation, of which nearly 479,300 were child pornography.
About 38% of the child pornography reports were confirmed. The number of
substantiated reports has generally increased each year, due likely to heightened
public awareness about child exploitation and better reporting by Internet providers.
NCMEC staff attribute the spike in substantiated reports from 2003 to 2004 to
increased reporting by Yahoo! Inc., which had not consistently reported online33
incidents in previous years.
Description and Funding of the Missing
and Exploited Children’s Program
The MEC program is the centerpiece of federal efforts to prevent the abduction
and exploitation of children and to recover those children who do go missing.34 The
program was created by the Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 1984 in response
to increasing concern about the abduction and sexual exploitation of children in the
late 1970s and early 1980s.35 At that time, many of the victims’ families and
communities perceived that kidnappings were becoming more commonplace.
Prominent cases of missing children were highly publicized and a docudrama,
“Adam” depicted the story of abducted six-year-old Adam Walsh, son of John and
32 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007, Submitted
to the U.S. Department of Justice, January 23, 2008. (Hereafter referred to as NCMEC,
NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.)
33 This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by NCMEC in
34 Other federal efforts around missing and exploited children focus on prosecution and
punishment, some of which are listed in Appendix B.
35 The Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 1982 (P.L. 97-292) was the first piece of
legislation related to missing children. The legislation added one new section to existing
law (at the time) that directed the Attorney General to keep records on missing children in
the National Crime Information Center’s (FBI) Missing Persons File and to disseminate
those records to state and local agencies. That law neither created new federal jurisdiction
over missing children’s programs nor required federal law enforcement officials to
coordinate missing children efforts.
36 Martin L. Forst and Martha-Elin Blomquist, Missing Children (New York: Lexington
Testimony at congressional hearings about missing children further reinforced
the perception of a missing children’s problem. Witnesses testified that as many as
1.8 million children were missing. They also highlighted the accompanying sexual
exploitation that children often experienced during missing episodes. Senator Mitch
McConnell, then chairman of the Kentucky Task Force on Exploited and Missing
Children, said that the nexus between exploited and missing children was evident by
the fact that nearly 10% of 844 missing children in one Kentucky county were
sexually exploited.37 Hearings on the act also underscored the need for the federal
government to coordinate efforts to locate missing children and prosecute their
abductors. McConnell testified:
Communities such as mine and states such as Kentucky are attempting to do all
that they can to assist missing children and better protect all children from
exploitation and abuse. There is a point, however, beyond which we cannot go
and where our resources cannot reach. [A national missing children program]
picks up where our work leaves off and will go a long way toward plugging the
holes and gaps in the system.
The Missing Children’s Assistance Act was passed shortly thereafter to address
concerns about coordination by directing the Department of Justice’s Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Administrator to lead federal
efforts to recover missing children through the MEC program. The legislation
established a national resource center and clearinghouse designed to provide
technical assistance to state and local governments and law enforcement agencies,
as well as disseminate information about the national incidence of missing children.
Further, the OJJDP Administrator was directed to establish a toll-free telephone line
to report information about missing children.
The Missing Children’s Assistance Act has been amended six times since 1984.
Major amendments include (1) requiring OJJDP to disseminate information about
free or low-cost legal, restaurant, lodging, and transportation services to families of
missing children (P.L. 100-690); (2) formalizing NCMEC’s role as the nation’s
clearinghouse for missing and exploited children and authorizing separate funding
levels for NCMEC (P.L. 106-71); and (3) formalizing NCMEC’s role in overseeing
activities to track reports of online child sexual exploitation (P.L. 108-21).
Appendix C provides a description of the original act and its amendments. Note that
the act has authorized OJJDP to establish grants and contracts for research and
demonstration projects but OJJDP has not provided funding through the MEC
program for this purpose.38 NISMART-1 and NISMART-2 were funded through a
Books, 1991), pp. 56-66.
37 Testimony of Mitch McConnell, in U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Judiciary,
Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice, Missing Children’s Assistance Act hearing, 98thnd
Congress, 2 sess., February 7, 1984 (Washington: GPO, 1984).
38 This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by the U.S.
Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs in May 2007.
Administration and Funding. The Child Protection Division in the
Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
(under the Office of Justice Programs) oversees the MEC program, in conjunction
with NCMEC, which has served as the national resource center and clearinghouse
The MEC program was first funded at $4 million in FY1985 and has steadily
received funding increases in all subsequent years beginning in 1991, except FY1994
through FY1997. Funding more than doubled in FY1998, from $6 million in
FY1997 to $12.3 million in FY1998, due to the implementation of the Internet
Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force program, which works to combat child
sexual exploitation via the Internet (see below for further discussion). Another
funding peak, from FY2004 to FY2005, was the result of increased funds for
NCMEC. Figure 2 shows the funding levels for the program for selected years from
FY1985 to FY2007.
Figure 2. Funding for the Missing and Exploited Children’s Program,
Select Years from FY1985 to FY2007
($ in millions)
$32 . 6$35
$2 3. 0$25
$1 7. 2$20
$8. 0 $8. 5 $6. 7 $6 . 0$10
$4.0 $4.0 $4.0$5
19 85 19 87 19 89 1 99 1 19 93 19 95 19 97 19 99 2 00 1 200 3 20 05 20 07
Source: Congressional Research Service presentation of data provided by the
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, May 2007.
Note: Funding is not adjusted for inflation.
On the basis of recent funding levels, major components of the program are
NCMEC, the ICAC Task Force program, Jimmy Ryce Law Enforcement Training
Center (housed in NCMEC), training and technical assistance for the AMBER Alert
program, and the office that administers the program in OJJDP’s Child Protection
Division.39 The most recent reauthorization of the Missing Children’s Assistance
39 Allocations for the OJJDP office fund training and technical assistance, and the
development and printing of publications and Missing Children’s Day activities through
Act, in 2003 (P.L. 104-235), authorized funding for NCMEC at $20 million annually
for FY2004 through FY2008 and such sums as necessary for other components of the
MEC for these same years. Table 1 shows the funding levels for each of the
components from FY2003 to FY2008. (The Department of Justice has not yet made
component-level data available for FY2008.)
Table 1. Missing and Exploited Children’s Program Funding
by Component, FY2003 to FY2008
($ in millions)
Program ComponentFY2003FY2004FY2005FY2006FY2007a FY2008
NCMEC (includes $12.4$14.8$23.6$23.7$26.5b$21.7
Cyb e r T ip line)
ICAC Task Force12.412.413.314.314.316.0
AMBER Alert Training and2.54.04.94.95.04.5
Jimmy Ryce Center (housed3.03.03.03.0Notb3.0
MEC Program Officec 188.8.131.52.51.71.9
MEC Program Total$32.6$35.7$46.3$47.4$47.5$50.0
Fund i ng
Source: Congressional Research Service based on information provided by the U.S. Department of
Justice, Office of Justice Programs, May 2007 and U.S. House, Committee on Appropriations, Joint
Explanatory Statement to Accompany FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Amendment to H.R. 2764
(P.L. 110-161), Division B, available at [http://www.gpoaccess.gov/congress/house/appropriations/
a. Three continuing resolutions (CR) for FY2007 temporarily extended the Missing and Exploited
Children’s program at the FY2006 annual rate. A fourth CR (H.J.Res. 20) signed into law (P.L.
110-5) ultimately provided funding for the entirety of FY2007. This appropriations measure
provided $47.4 million, the same funding level the program received in FY2006.
b. Funding for the Jimmy Ryce Center is included in the NCMEC allocation.
c. Allocations for the OJJDP office fund training and technical assistance, and the development and
printing of publications and Missing Children’s Day activities through DOJ’s National Criminal
Justice Reference Service.
The remainder of this report discusses the major components of the MEC
program (note that the Jimmy Ryce Law Enforcement Training Center, housed at
NCMEC, is included in the section on NCMEC), and potential reauthorization issues.
DOJ’s National Criminal Justice Reference Service. This information was provided to the
Congressional Research Service by the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,
National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children
NCMEC is a primary component of the MEC program and employs nearly 300
employees at its Alexandria, Virginia headquarters and regional offices in California,
Florida, Kansas, New York, and South Carolina. These regional offices provide case
management and technical support in their geographic areas. An Austin, Texas office
is expected to open in spring 2008.40
NCMEC provides activities and services concerning (1) missing children,
including those abducted to or from the United States; (2) exploited children; (3)
training and technical assistance; (4) families of missing children; and (5)
partnerships with state clearinghouses, the private sector, and children’s
organizations. (Note that some missing children and exploited children programs are
not mutually exclusive and that this report does not provide an exhaustive discussion
of all services provided by NCMEC.) These activities and services are detailed
In addition to funding through the MEC program, NCMEC is also funded
through contributions42 and the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) in the Department of
Homeland Security. Pursuant to the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of
1994 (P.L. 103-322), Congress has mandated that the USSS provide forensic and
technical assistance to NCMEC and federal, state, and local law enforcement
agencies in matters involving missing and exploited children. For FY2008, Congress
appropriated $8.4 million to the USSS for a grant for activities related to
investigations of missing children, which was subsequently granted to NCMEC.43
Missing Children’s Services
Call Center. NCMEC’s Call Center receives calls on its 24-hour, national and
international toll-free hotline (1-800-THE-LOST) primarily from parents and law
enforcement officials. From October 1984 to December 2007, the Center received
40 This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by NCMEC in
41 Unless otherwise noted, the description of these services is based on a site visit to
NCMEC and interviews and correspondence with NCMEC staff from March 2007 to May
Quarterly Progress Report, October to December 2006.
42 In FY2006, NCMEC received nearly $7.8 million in contributions, nearly $2.7 million
from special events, approximately $531,000 from interest income, and nearly $180,000
from other sources. This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service
by NCMEC in August 2007.
43 U.S. House, Committee on Appropriations, Joint Explanatory Statement to Accompany
FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Amendment to H.R. 2764 (P.L. 110-161), Division
D; available at [http://www.gpoaccess.gov/congress/house/appropriations/08conappro.html].
2,257,527 calls.44 Calls for services involving missing-children cases (“case” labels
are based on one or more children and do not represent a single incident), leads or
sightings of missing children, requests for information and assistance, and (since
1987) reports of child exploitation through the Child Pornography Tipline, are routed
to the Call Center.45 Call Center staff assist law enforcement and other professionals
in cases of missing and exploited children and transfer call data regarding runaway
children to the National Runaway Switchboard (1-800-RUNAWAY). Assistance
activities range from sending publications or educational materials to providing
technical support to law enforcement and families about missing children cases. The
Call Center also provides information to families of missing children about free or
low-cost transportation services or requests transportation for families needing
assistance with reunification. NCMEC partners with American Airlines, Continental
Airlines, Amtrak, and Greyhound to transport families.
NCMEC is the only non-profit, non-law enforcement entity to have access to the
FBI’s National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) Missing Person File, which is
reviewed by Call Center staff for records of missing children reported by local and
state law enforcement agencies and updates of these records.46 The Crime Control
Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-647) requires law enforcement agencies that enter cases into
the NCIC database to work with NCMEC to receive information and technical
support. Cases of children who are believed to be seriously at risk are flagged in
NCIC for NCMEC. NCMEC is permitted to search the Missing Person File for adult
missing person cases because some missing children, upon reaching the age of
majority, are reentered into NCIC as missing adults.
Case Management. Each missing child case is entered into NCMEC’s
nationwide database, a central clearinghouse for law enforcement, and a case
manager in the Missing Children’s Division is assigned. NCMEC case managers
serve as the single point of contact for the searching family and provide technical
assistance to locate abductors and recover missing children.
From 1990 to December 2007, case managers handled 114,679 cases (i.e.,
individual children), of which approximately 110,490 were resolved (including
44 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.
45 Calls on the Child Pornography Tipline are taken on behalf of the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Postal Inspection
Service; Federal Bureau of Investigation; and U.S. Secret Service, and include victims of
pornography, prostitution, sex rings, and sex tourism. This reflects activity since June 1987.
46 NCIC data are reported by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials. As of
January 1, 2008, juveniles under age 18 accounted for nearly 52% of all missing person
cases. This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by the U.S.
Department of Justice, FBI, Criminal Criminal Justice Information Services Division in
January 2008. The FBI authorizes the National Central Bureau of Interpol to input
missing-child cases into the Missing Person File where no U.S. law enforcement agency
jurisdiction exists (42 U.S.C. §5780). For additional information about the NCIC, see U.S.
Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), NCIC Missing Person File,
available at [http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/missingpersons.htm].
located deceased victims).47 Just under three quarters of the cases (82,810) involved
endangered runaways, followed by victims of family abduction (25,896). Figure 3
below summarizes the number of cases handled, cases resolved, and “media ready”
cases from 1990 to 2006. Cases are certified media ready if they meet particular
criteria, including that the case must have been processed through the Call Center and
a police report must have been made regarding the missing child, among other
criteria. In 2005, an usually high number of missing children cases were handled due
to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Figure 3. Missing Children Services Case Activity, 1990 to 2006
Source: Congressional Research Service based on graphic provided by the National Center
for Missing and Exploited Children, March 2007.
Project ALERT (America’s Law Enforcement Retiree Team). The
Project ALERT program was established in 1992 to assist law enforcement agencies
with the recovery of missing children at no cost to the agencies. Project ALERT
members include 158 retired federal, state, and local law enforcement officials who
have recent and relevant investigative experience and complete a 40-hour48
certification course. From 1992 to December 2007, Project ALERT representatives
were assigned about 2,400 cases.49 Project ALERT services include witness
interviews, surveillance, search and rescue coordination, and liaison efforts with the
family of a missing child. Representatives also conduct outreach to the community
through public speaking and attending conferences.
Team Adam. Team Adam, created in 2003, is a rapid, on-site response and
support system that provides no-cost investigative and technical assistance to local
47 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.
law enforcement officers. The team is staffed by 61 retired federal, state, and local
investigators chosen by a committee with representatives from the FBI and state and
local law enforcement executives experienced in crimes-against-children
investigations.50 Team Adam consultants determine, through contact with the law
enforcement agency and the victim’s family, which additional resources or assistance
would be valuable with the search for the victim, the investigation of the crime, and
family crisis management. Team Adam assisted law enforcement 212 times in 42
states and aided in the recovery of 218 children from 2003 through 2005.51 In 2007,
the team handled 17 cases and helped recover 21 children.52
Forensic Assistance Unit. The Forensic Assistance Unit is composed of
the Forensic Imaging Team, Cold Case Team, and Unidentified Human Remains
Team; this unit assists in the recovery of long-term missing children and works to
identify the remains of children and young adults believed to have gone missing.
Forensic Imaging Team. The Forensic Imaging Team was created in 1990
to age-progress images of missing children. The team’s technicians age-progress
photos of children through software programs using the most recent picture of the
child. The image is stretched to approximate normal cranial and facial growth, and
the stretched image is merged and blended with a photograph of an immediate
biological family member.53 The age-progressed image appears in clothing and a
hairstyle consistent with the child’s current age. Missing children photos are age-
progressed every two years and adult photos are age-progressed in five-year
increments. Age-progressed images are distributed to the local police, searching
families, media, and posted on the NCMEC website. More than 3,400 children have
been age-progressed since 1990.54
Age-regressed images are also created by the forensic team. These images are
produced at the request of law enforcement agents posing as youth in online
communication with adults who seek to engage in sexual acts with children. Agents
in their twenties and thirties (usually) send their photograph to NCMEC, and they are
made to appear as adolescents. Finally, the age-progression unit creates facial and
skull reconstructions of missing children based on recovered remains. The team
works with an offsite forensic anthropologist who CAT-scans the remains. Based on
the digital depiction of the image and discussions with the anthropologist about the
child’s likely background (race, gender, age), the team creates a black-and-white
digital profile (so as to not provide exact eye/hair/skin tones) of the child. The
forensic team might also reference medical examiner records and newspaper
51 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, NCMEC Annual Report 2005, p. 17.
(Hereafter referred to as National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Annual Report
52 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.
53 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Forensic Imaging Activities, 2006.
This description of forensic imaging activities is from an internal document made available
to CRS by NCMEC in March 2007.
54 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.
clippings from the area where the child was recovered. Through December 31, 2007,
Cold Case Team and Unidentified Human Remains Team.56 Analysts
on these teams provide support and resources to the “cold” cases of long-term
missing children and cases of unidentified human remains of victims believed to be
children and young adults. They also assist law enforcement and medical
examiners/coroners in cases of child homicides and identification. Since the teams
were established in 2001, through 2006, analysts reviewed 5,713 cases and assisted
in the recovery of 12 living children and 333 deceased children. The unit has
responded to 782 calls from medical examiners/coroners and has administratively
resolved (i.e., recovered missing and deceased children) 625 long-term runaway
cases. NCMEC has partnered with the University of North Texas to offer parents and
family members of missing children an opportunity to have their DNA samples
profiled and uploaded to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), where
once a week, the DNA of the missing child is scanned against the DNA profiles of
unidentified persons. Family participation exceeds 59%.
International Missing Children’s Cases57
Since 1995, NCMEC has worked, under a Cooperative Agreement with the
State Department and OJJDP, to handle incoming international abduction cases
under The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
(the “Hague Convention”).58 Signatories to the Convention pledge to work toward
the prompt return of abducted children. Of the 192 formally recognized countries in
the world, however, 124 lack formal civil mechanisms in place with the U.S. to
facilitate the return of a parentally abducted child.59
NCMEC, through its International Missing Children’s Division, is responsible
for processing applications seeking the return of or access to children abducted to the
United States; however, NCMEC also coordinates cases of American children
abducted abroad.60 NCMEC is permitted to receive reports from the Immigration and
57 The International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (“ICMEC”) is a sister
organization and is affiliated with NCMEC. ICMEC focuses on policy, advocacy, and
training, and does not perform case work. ICMEC advocates for adoption of treaties in
regards to children’s rights; engages international law enforcement officials, civil service
organizations, and government representatives; offers technical assistance in creating
missing children centers; and creates and distributes reports on international child abduction
and child sexual exploitation.
58 T.I.A.S. No. 111670. The Department of State is designated as the U.S. Central Authority
for the Hague Convention. NCMEC is permitted to serve as the representative of the State
Department pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §11608.
59 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.
60 A civil lawsuit (Rodriguez v. NCMEC et al.) against NCMEC was filed concerning an
Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency of passengers and arrival and international
travel destination information as they pertain to missing children cases.61 As of
December 31, 2007, the International Missing Children’s Division was handling
1,658 active international family abduction cases (i.e. individual children).62 Of the
active caseload, 54% are outgoing cases involving a child missing from the United
States and believed to be in a foreign country, and 46% are incoming cases involving
a child missing from a foreign country and believed to be in the United States.
NCMEC collaborates with law enforcement to pursue criminal warrants via the
International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (P.L. 103-173), which criminalizes
removing a child from the United States “with the intent to obstruct the lawful
exercise of parental rights.” (The term parental rights refers to the right to joint or
sole physical custody of a child obtained through a court order, a legally binding
agreement between the involved parties, or by operation of law.63)
NCMEC handles hundreds of prevention and abduction-in-progress matters
each year. NCMEC also coordinates the provision of pro-bono legal assistance to
victim families and provides technical support, including legal technical assistance
to parents, lawyers, court officers, law enforcement officials, and others on matters
relating to international abduction.
Exploited Children’s Division
Pursuant to the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-
322), Congress mandated that the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) provide forensic and
technical assistance to NCMEC and federal, state, and local law enforcement
agencies in matters involving missing and exploited children. NCMEC’s Exploited
Children’s Division (ECD) was established in January 1997 with a grant from USSS
received pursuant to P.L. 103-322.
The ECU administers the Child Victim ID Program (CVIP) and CyberTipline
(discussed below). The unit also analyzes data and forwards requests to appropriate
NCMEC divisions and departments and monitors online services, news reports, and
“incoming” case to the United States from Columbia. Due to the high costs of the lawsuit,
the NCMEC Board has voted that a change must be made before renewing the Cooperative
Agreement that would indemnify NCMEC for legal expenses arising from being sued for
carrying out that Cooperative Agreement. Arrangements have been made by NCMEC for
insurance coverage. The Prevention of Child Abduction Partnership Act (P.L. 108-370)
provides NCMEC with limited immunity for handling such Hague Convention cases under
the agreement (42 U.S.C. §1591d).
61 See U.S. Department of Treasury, Customs Service (now U.S. Department of Homeland
Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement), “Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended;
Privacy Records: Notice of Altered System of Records,” 64 Federal Register 14500, March
62 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.
63 For further information about the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act and the
Hague Convention, see CRS Report RS21261, International Parental Abduction Cases, by
Alison M. Smith.
other sources each day for new cases and information relative to the issues of child
sexual exploitation. From 1997 through December 2007, the unit archived
approximately 221,000 articles, of which more than 6,850 pertained to reports of
child sexual exploitation; law enforcement agencies were contacted in 9,692 cases
as a result of the reports found in the articles.64
In addition to the ECD, a separate unit in NCMEC — the Sex Offender
Tracking Team within the Case Analysis and Support Division — works on exploited
children’s issues. The team tracks sexual offenders pursuant to the Adam Walsh
Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 of 2006 (P.L. 109-248), discussed below.
The Child Victim Identification Program (CVIP). CVIP formally began
in 2002 in response to the decision in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002), in
which the Supreme Court held that federal laws prohibiting pornography are
enforceable when they involve identified children, and not images that appear to be
children.65 CVIP analysts assist law enforcement officers and prosecutors with child
pornography cases throughout the country using NCMEC’s Child Recognition and
Identification System (CRIS), a catalog that stores information about identified and
unidentified sexually exploited children. Local and federal law enforcement agencies
may submit seized images to assist law enforcement agencies in the rescue of
children who are currently being abused. These images are reviewed by CVIP
analysts who then provide the submitting agencies with information about the
children. Through February 10, 2008, CRIS has processed over 12 million images
and movies; CRIS contains information on 1,292 child victims who have been66
identified by law enforcement agencies around the world.
In April 2007, NCMEC made available the Victim Identification Lab to law
enforcement officers and prosecutors through a secure website to examine sanitized
images that contain clues about a child’s whereabouts. Authorized users can
examine the images and post comments and suggestions for both NCMEC and other
authorized users to read. Viable clues or suggestions are pursued by NCMEC in
collaboration with local and state law enforcement.
CyberTipline. As discussed above, the CyberTipline began in March 1998 to
serve 24 hours a day, seven days a week as the national clearinghouse for tips and
leads about child sexual exploitation.67 The tipline allows persons and electronic
communication service providers (ESPs) to report the enticement of children for
sexual acts, child sexual molestation not in the family, child pornography, sex
tourism of children, and child victims of prostitution. The CyberTipline also accepts
64 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.
65 For further information about Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002), see CRS Report
95-406, Child Pornography: Constitutional Principles and Federal Statutes, by Henry
66 Information provided by NCMEC, February 2008.
67 NCMEC’s role as administrator of the CyberTipline was authorized by the Prosecutorial
Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of
reports of misleading domain names and unsolicited materials sent to children, which
are then referred to the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity
Section in the Criminal Division.
As of February 17, 2008, the CyberTipline received 563,765 reports, nearly 90%
involving child pornography.68 All CyberTipline reports are accessible by the FBI,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Postal Inspection Service
(USPIS) and the DOJ Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section through a secure web
connection. The CyberTipline logs every report opened by each agency and each
agency has the ability to indicate if they plan to take further action on a particular
Analysts from NCMEC’s Exploited Children’s Unit send verified reports to the
appropriate Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces (see below), or when
appropriate, the local police agency. Federal law enforcement agents and analysts co-
located at NCMEC prepare and serve subpoenas based on leads from the
CyberTipline, and reported leads are referred to field offices.69 The FBI uses
CyberTipline reports to gain leads for their Innocence Lost Project on domestic child
trafficking (see Appendix E for additional information about this initiative). All
CyberTipline reports are available in “real time” in an online database for authorized
users from federal law enforcement. These reports are also available via Virtual
Private Network (VPN) on cases specifically referred to the Internet Crimes Against
Children Task Forces. Reports may then be forwarded to the appropriate service
provider. From 1998 to February 10, 2008, ECU analysts also made 4,817 requests
to electronic communications service providers to remove illegal child pornography
content from their servers.70
Electronic communication service providers are required to report all child
pornography to the CyberTipline for forwarding to designated law enforcement
agencies.71 Just over 10% (375) of the approximately 3,000 ESPs have voluntarily72
complied with the law. Federal law and federal regulations are silent on whether
68 Information provided by NCMEC in February 2008. Approximately 4% of the reports
received were through the Child Pornography Tipline, operated through the Call Center. The
CyberTipline received more than 32,000 referrals from law enforcement and hotlines
operated by non-governmental organizations in 22 countries, primarily in Europe, which are
counted in the overall figures.
69 Federal law enforcement officials from four agencies (FBI - 2 Agents, 7 Analysts; US
Postal Inspection Service - 1 Inspector; U.S. Marshals Service - 1 Inspector; Immigration
and Customs Enforcement Agency - 1 Agent; and the State Department - 1 Foreign Service
Officer) work full- or part-time at NCMEC investigating missing and exploited children
cases, as they pertain to their federal jurisdiction.
70 This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by NCMEC in
71 Electronic communication providers are required to report apparent child pornography to
the CyberTipline pursuant to P.L. 106-113 (Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2000).
72 This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by NCMEC in
or how uniform resource locators (URLs) containing child pornography should be
removed, filtered, or blocked, and NCMEC assumes that these providers take
necessary steps to help ensure that the URLs are not available to the public.
Sex Offender Tracking Team. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and
Safety Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-248) expanded the requirements for state law
enforcement and prison officials to track and register sex offenders. In partnership
with the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), NCMEC’s Sex Offender Tracking Team,
in its Case Analysis and Support Division, serves as the central information and
analysis hub and assists in efforts to apprehend non-compliant registered sex
offenders. Analysts support the USMS, Federal Bureau of Investigation, state sex
offender registries, and other state and local law enforcement nationwide to assist in
identifying and locating non-compliant registered sex offenders.
As the Sex Offender Tracking Team develops, analysts will act as liaisons
between state registries in an effort to increase communication and better track sex
offenders moving between states, respond to requests to conduct searches to assist
law enforcement agencies and state registries in their investigations of non-compliant
and absconded sex offenders, and provide the law enforcement community with leads
to locate these offenders. In addition, analysts will compare NCMEC’s attempted
abduction data, online predator data, and child abduction data for potential linkages
with non-compliant sex offenders being sought by law enforcement, and to examine
trends and patterns. This information will be used to create more effective
prevention and response strategies in response to sex offenders.
The team developed a standard protocol in response to law enforcement requests
for assistance in locating fugitive sex offenders, which generally includes information
obtained through public databases and search tools routinely used by NCMEC
Analysts. From October 2006 to December 2007, law enforcement agencies made
426 requests for assistance in locating non-compliant offenders. The team has
assisted in locating and arresting 75 offenders after NCMEC provided information
to law enforcement officials about these offenders.73
Family Advocacy Services
NCMEC’s Family Advocacy Division provides support, crisis-intervention, and
technical assistance to families, law enforcement, and family-advocacy agencies.
The division has assisted with 1,340 cases of missing children or sexually exploited
children since its creation in 2003, through December 2007.74 Team HOPE (Help
Offering Parents Empowerment), a component of the division, consists of trained
volunteers who have experienced the disappearance of a child in their family. These
volunteers mentor other parents and families of missing children to help them cope
during and after a missing incident. Since Team HOPE was established in 1998,
73 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.
through December 2007, it has assisted the families of missing victims in 19,493
The Family Advocacy Division also collaborates with the 37 American and
Canadian missing children advocacy groups that collectively form the Association
of Missing and Exploited Children’s Organizations (AMECO), by providing
technical assistance (such as training sessions on working with law enforcement and
identifying the needs of victims) and hosting site visits to NCMEC. AMECO is
funded through discretionary MEC program funds.
Training and Technical Assistance
NCMEC trainers provide on- and off-site training and technical assistance to
law enforcement, criminal and juvenile justice professionals, and healthcare
professionals nationwide and in Canada. Training involves issues relating to child
sexual exploitation and missing-child case detection, identification of victims,
investigation, prevention, and forensic imaging. NCMEC provides nationally
accredited training about infant security for healthcare professionals (nursing and
security) in partnership with Mead-Johnson Nutritionals, a baby food company.
Since 1987 through December 2007, NCMEC has trained 63,419 hospital personnel
about infant security.76
Jimmy Ryce Law Enforcement Training Center. The Jimmy Ryce Law
Enforcement Training Center (housed at NCMEC since 1988 and later named for
nine-year-old Jimmy Ryce who was abducted and killed in Florida in 1995) was
created to provide training courses for law enforcement officials and prosecutors.
Course topics include assistance in creating local law enforcement strategies to
recover missing children and in protecting children online. From 1997 through 2006,
over 3,000 law enforcement executives, 3,100 unit commanders, 3,300 investigators,
and 1,600 prosecutors have been trained at the center in courses for chief executive
officers and protecting children online.77 NCMEC also conducts training at the
Missouri Law Enforcement Training Center and Polisseni Law Enforcement Training
Work with Federal Agencies. As discussed above, NCMEC works closely
with federal agencies, some of which have detailed agents and analysts to work at
NCMEC part-time or full-time. These analysts follow CyberTipline leads and work
with NCMEC to develop policy and procedures around children missing
internationally, among other activities.
76 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.
77 This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by NCMEC in
Work with State Clearinghouses. Each state, the District of Columbia,
Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Canada have devoted resources to missing
and exploited children’s activities through clearinghouses located within law
enforcement agencies.78 These clearinghouses disseminate information and collect
data about missing individuals, provide technical assistance in cases of missing and
exploited children, and network with other clearinghouses. NCMEC provides the
clearinghouses with training, technical assistance, and information to assist them in
handling missing-children cases.
Public-Private Partnerships. NCMEC coordinates public and private
programs seeking to locate, recover, or reunite missing children with their legal
custodians; identify ways to expand and enhance current programs; and help promote
the development, advancement, and sponsorship of NCMEC programs. NCMEC
staff members create partnerships and maintain relationships with non-profit and
corporate partners to create a network for NCMEC programs.79
Background Screening Pilot Program. The PROTECT Act created a
pilot program to screen employees and volunteers at three children organizations:
Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the National Mentor Partnerships, and National80
Council of Youth. For FY2003 and FY2004, the act tasked NCMEC with making
determinations about the quality of the applicant on the basis of their criminal
background history. The act’s reauthorization (P.L. 109-162) extended the program
through FY2008. In FY2005, NCMEC screened 6,907 records processed for two of
the organizations (the third declined to participate), of which 145 (2%) received a
“red light,” meaning the applicant had a conviction for a criterion offense (any felony
or misdemeanor offense not included on the list of non-serious offenses published
periodically by the FBI), or the applicant was on a sex offender registry.81 Another
4% of applicants were rated a “yellow light,” meaning that they were arrested for a
criterion offense, but case results were not available. NCMEC has not received
appropriations for this pilot program through the MEC program. From 2003 to 2006,
the cost of the program was $1.5 million.
On March 13, 2008, Senator Biden and Representative Schiff introduced the
Child Protection Improvements Act of 2008 (S. 2756/H.R. 5606) that would
authorize a background screening program of volunteers and employees of youth-
serving entities, including a business or organization that provides care, care
placement, supervision, instruction, and other activities on behalf of children. The
78 Louisiana houses its state clearinghouse within the Department of Social Services.
79 A list of community supporters and corporate sponsors is available online at
[ ht t p: / / www.mi ssi ngki ds.com/ mi ssi ngki ds/ s ervl et / PageSer vl et ?LanguageCount r y=en _ US
&PageId=2296]. Note that NCMEC is currently processing background checks for the
American Camping Association (up to 1,000 applicants), the National Mentoring
Partnership, and five local chapters of the Boys & Girls Club. Information provided by
NCMEC, August 2007.
80 42 U.S.C. §5119(a).
81 This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by NCMEC in
program would be conducted by an applicant processing center established by the
Justice Department, either within the federal government or through an agreement
with a non-profit entity. Further, the bill would also authorize a fitness determination
program, to be administered by NCMEC, that would make determinations about
whether the criminal history record information conducted under the background
screening program would render the volunteer or employee unfit to interact with
children. The proposed legislation would authorize $5 million for FY2008 for the
Attorney General to establish the applicant process center, establish and carry out the
fitness determination program, and pursue technologies and procedures to streamline
and automate processes to increase savings; and $1 million to NCMEC in each of
FY2009 through FY2013 to conduct the fitness determination program and to ensure
that fees for non-profit organizations are as low as possible. The bill would limit the
liability of NCMEC and other entities involved in the background check process and
would provide protections to the individual who undergoes a background chuck. It
also specifies the time frame that each entity would be required to report information
to another entity involved in the background check process.
Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography. In 2006, NCMEC and
the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children joined with 29
international financial institutions and Internet industry leaders to combat commercial
online child pornography. The purpose of the coalition is to prevent the purchase and
sale of child pornography over the Internet and to engage in prevention efforts. More
than 4,417 reports of commercial child pornography were received, reviewed, and
disseminated to federal and local law enforcement from March 2006 to December82
Community Outreach. NCMEC works with community partners to prevent
incidents of missing and exploited children. The “Hand in Hand with Children:
Guiding and Protecting” campaign is a statewide initiative to educate families about
keeping children safer. NCMEC’s External Affairs Division (EAD) staff work with
mayors and state officials to hold child safety events to stress the importance of child
protection measures. EAD is also responsible for other community outreach
activities. The division uses staff and volunteers from around the country to attend
school meetings and conferences about child safety. EAD manages the Campaign
Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) to engage large urban communities in
protecting children from becoming victims of sexual exploitation.
NetSmartz Workshop is an online resource guide (www.NetSmartz.org) for
children ages 5 to 17, parents, law enforcement, and educators to keep children safer
online and empower children to make safer decisions about their Internet use. The
website includes English- and Spanish-language brochures on the program and
resources, such as Blog Beware, to alert children and their parents of the possible
dangers of social networking sites. NetSmartz staff members also train educators and
law enforcement about the resources available through NetSmartz.
Finally, the Minority Outreach Program provides information to minority
communities to make them aware that minority children are overrepresented among
82 NCMEC, NCMEC Quarterly Progress Report: October 1-December 31, 2007.
the missing children population. The goals of the program are to educate families
about measures to help keep children safer from individuals who seek to harm
children, to help families respond in the event a child becomes missing, and to assist
families with recognizing symptoms in suspected cases of sexual exploitation.
Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force
The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force program was first
funded in 1998 (Justice Appropriations Act, P.L. 105-119) to provide federal support
for state and local law enforcement agencies to combat online enticement of children
and the proliferation of pornography.83 The purpose of the program is to develop
multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional task forces that include, but are not limited to,
representatives from federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecution, victim84
services, and child protective services.
An ICAC task force is formed when a state or local law enforcement agency
enters into a grant contract with OJJDP, and then into a memorandum of
understanding with other federal, state, and local agencies. Currently, 46 regional
task forces have been created, with more than 1,000 affiliated organizations (most of85
which are city and county law enforcement agencies). All states have a regional
task force or belong to a task force in a neighboring state.86 The task forces receive
leads from CyberTipline analysts at NCMEC and concerned citizens or develop leads
through proactive investigations and undercover operations. In FY2006, ICAC task
forces identified 1,121 child victims in pornographic images, investigated 5,416
cases of Internet traveler/child enticement, and made over 2,000 arrests of individuals87
who sexually exploit children. ICAC task forces are currently assisting the Justice
Department with implementing Project Safe Childhood, an initiative to increase
prosecution of child exploitation cases, in each U.S. Attorney’s Office. (See
discussion in Appendix E).
83 The ICAC Task Force program does not appear to be formally authorized under law.
However, under P.L. 109-248, Congress authorized the creation of additional ICAC task
forces and the enhancement of existing task forces through the Project Safe Childhood
program (see Appendix E for additional information about Project Safe Childhood).
Further, Congress has allocated funding for the ICAC Task Force program in each year since
FY1998 through FY2008 through the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the
Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Acts.
84 Michael Medaris and Cathy Girouard, Protecting Children in Cyberspace: The ICAC
Task Force Program, U.S. Department of Justice, January 2002, p. 3. The report is
available at [http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/191213.pdf]. (Hereafter referred to as
Medaris and Girouard, Protecting Our Children in Cyberspace.)
85 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2008 Performance Budget, p. 70.
The document is available at [http://www.usdoj.gov/jmd/2008justification/pdf/40_ojp.pdf1].
86 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, “Department Of Justice
Announces Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces In All 50 States,” press release,
October 15, 2007; at [http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2007/October/07_ojp_061.html].
87 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2007 Performance Budget, p. 76.
ICAC Task Force members receive training and technical assistance at courses
through Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) of Appleton, Wisconsin. Since 1998,
FVTC, in partnership with NCMEC and OJJDP, has also trained law enforcement
officials, state and local government agencies, child protection staff, and others on
responding to missing and exploited children’s cases. (Funding for FVTC is
currently provided through the AMBER Alert Program’s Training and Technical
Assistance component, discussed below. Funding for this component was subject to
a competitive bidding process and the bid was awarded to FVTC.)
AMBER Alert Program
AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert systems
are state administered. The MEC program supports these programs by providing
training and technical assistance to law enforcement personnel and AMBER Alert88
administrators. AMBER systems are voluntary partnerships — between law
enforcement agencies, broadcasters, and transportation agencies — to activate
messages in a targeted area when a child is abducted and believed to be in grave
danger. The first system began locally in 1996 when fourth-grader Amber Hagerman
was abducted and murdered near her home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. After the
abduction, law enforcement agencies in North Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth
Association of Radio Managers developed a plan to send out an emergency alert
about a missing child to the public through the Emergency Alert System (EAS),89
which interrupts broadcasting. Soon after, jurisdictions in Texas and other states
began to create regional alert programs.
Program Administration. The PROTECT Act (P.L. 108-21) authorized the
Attorney General to create a national AMBER Alert program to eliminate gaps
among state, local, and interstate AMBER Alert networks. The act provided that the
Attorney General appoint an AMBER Alert coordinator to (1) work with states to
encourage the development of additional regional and local AMBER Alert plans; (2)
serve as the regional coordinator of abducted children throughout the AMBER Alert
network; (3) create voluntary standards for the issuance of alerts, including minimum
standards that addressed the special needs of the child (such as health care needs) and
limit the alerts to a geographical area most likely to facilitate the abduction of the
child, without interfering with the current system of voluntary coordination between
local broadcasters and law enforcement; (4) submit a report to Congress by March
1, 2005, on the activities of the Coordinator and the effectiveness and status of the
AMBER plans of each state that has implemented such a plan; and (5) consult with
the FBI and cooperate with the Federal Communications Commission in
implementing the program.
In 2003, the DOJ AMBER Alert coordinator was appointed and convened a
national advisory group to oversee the national initiative and make recommendations
88 42 U.S.C. §§5791-5791d.
89 For further discussion about the distribution of the alerts, see CRS Report RS21453,
AMBER Alert Program Technology, by Linda K. Moore.
on the AMBER Alert criteria, examine new technologies, identify best practices, and
identify issues with implementation. On the basis of the group’s recommendations,
the Department issued guidelines for issuing an alert: law enforcement officials have
a reasonable belief that an abduction has occurred; law enforcement officials believe
that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death; enough
descriptive information exists about the victim and the abductor for law enforcement
to issue an alert; the victim is age 17 or younger; and the child’s name and other
critical data elements have been entered into the National Crime Information Center
(NCIC) system. A new AMBER Alert “flag” was created within NCIC for abducted
children for whom an alert has been issued. The Department submitted a report to
Congress in July 2005 that provided an overview of its strategy to facilitate a national
AMBER Alert plan and the criteria developed to issue an alert.90
To date, all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have developed
plans, in addition to 28 regional plans and 40 local plans.91
Funding. DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs first provided funding for local
and state AMBER Alert programs in 2002, with $10 million in discretionary funding.
Authority to federally fund these programs, through the Departments of Justice and
Transportation, was formalized under the PROTECT Act (P.L. 108-21). The
Department of Justice is authorized to provide grants to states, on a geographically
equitable basis as possible, to develop and enhance their AMBER Alert
communications plans. In FY2004, $4 million was appropriated for this purpose.
However, the grant program was not implemented and the decision was made that
funds were most efficiently spent delivering consistent, comprehensive training and
technical assistance for the AMBER Alert program.92 Since FY2004, the AMBER
Alert program has received between $2.5 million and $5 million each fiscal year for
training and technical assistance (see below for information about training and
technical assistance services).
The PROTECT Act also authorized (and Congress subsequently appropriated)
$20 million through the Department of Transportation (DOT) for states to develop
and enhance communications systems along highways for alerts and other
information for the recovery of abducted children. States are eligible to receive
funding (up to $400,000 each, from the one-time appropriation of $20 million) — to
be used for the implementation of a communications program that employs
changeable message signs or other motorist information systems — if DOT
90 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Report to the Congress on
AMBER Alert, July 2005, p. 7; available at [http://www.amberalert.gov/newsroom/pdfs/
05_amber_report.pdf]. (Hereafter referred to as U.S. Department of Justice, Report to
Congress on AMBER Alert).
91 Based on information provided by NCMEC, April 2007. A compilation of state laws
authorizing state, regional, and local AMBER Alert systems is available at
[ ht t p: / / www.AM BER-ne t .or g/ AM BERs t a t ut e s .ht m] .
92 This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by the U.S.
Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs in May 2007.
determines that the state has already developed the program.93 To date, 35 states
have received funding. The federal share of the cost of these activities is not to
exceed 80%, and federal funds are available until expended.94
AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance. Every five years
OJJDP issues a competitive solicitation seeking bids to provide technical training for
law enforcement around techniques to recover missing and exploited children.
Funding for this bid was last awarded in 2005, through AMBER Alert program
funding. Fox Valley Technical College was awarded the bid and provides training
and technical assistance for seven courses:
!Child Abduction Response Team (CART): The Child Abduction
Response Team (CART) training program was established to
provide additional support in recovering missing and abducted
children. CART deployments can be used for all missing children
abduction cases, including those that meet the AMBER Alert
criteria. They can also be used for other missing children cases, such
as to recover runaway children who are believed to be in danger.
!Basic Forensic Response to Missing and Abducted Children: This
training is designed to enhance the forensic skills of law
enforcement professionals involved in missing and abducted
children cases. Topics covered include evidence security, crime
scene identification, and electronic evidence, among others.
!Investigative Strategies for Missing and Abducted Children
(ISMAC): ISMAC training is designed for experienced investigative
professionals. Course topics involve human trafficking, resource
sharing, cold cases, and computer forensics.
!Leadership for Missing and Abducted Children: This course
provides training for law enforcement managers and executives who
are capable of making policy-level decisions that affect
administration and implementation of AMBER Alert plans.
93 Pursuant to the PROTECT Act, states are eligible to receive two types of DOT grants.
Development grants to be used to develop general policies, procedures, training, and
communication systems for changeable message signs or other motorist information about
an abduction. Implementation grants are to be used to support the infrastructure of the
program. Funding authorized under the PROTECT Act was used exclusively for the
implementation of communication systems to issue AMBER alerts. However, states are
eligible to apply for grants up to $125,000 each, through a separate DOT appropriation for
the Intelligent Transportation Systems program, to support state departments of
transportation efforts related to AMBER Alert planning. These funds are available until
expended. This information was provided to CRS by DOT, Federal Highway Administration
staff. in May 2007.
94 This information was provided to CRS by DOT, Federal Highway Administration staff,
in May 2007.
!AMBER and the Media: Media training is designed to assist law
enforcement’s work with the media during missing or abducted
!Prosecutors’ Strategies: This course is intended for local, state, and
federal prosecutors who handle child abduction cases.
!AMBER Alert Scenario-Based Training at Newsplex: Newsplex is
a state-of-the art scenario-based training that gives participants
unique hands-on experience dealing with evolving incidents or
unusual events, such as AMBER Alerts.
NCMEC’s Role in AMBER Alert Program. At the request of the
Department of Justice, NCMEC serves as the national clearinghouse for AMBER
Alert information and employs a full-time AMBER Alert law enforcement liaison.
NCMEC verifies AMBER Alerts and disseminates information about an abduction
to authorized secondary distributors that can target messages to their customers in a
specific geographic region. (Only law enforcement can initiate and release AMBER
Alerts for primary distribution.) In May 2005, DOJ and NCMEC partnered with
CTIA-The Wireless Association to encourage customers to sign up to receive95
wireless AMBER Alerts on their cell phones.
Issues that are relevant to the MEC program include a FY2009 Department of
Justice proposal to consolidate the program with juvenile justice programs under a
discretionary block grant; the potential need for more comprehensive data on missing
and sexually exploited children; and the creation of the National Emergency Child
Missing Locator Center at NCMEC that will provide assistance to jurisdictions
experiencing disasters. Related issues include children missing from foster care and
Block Grant Proposed Under FY2009 Budget
The Administration’s FY2009 proposal to create a block grant for the MEC
program and other juvenile justice programs does not provide a specific funding
request for the MEC program. According to the OJP budget justifications, the
proposed budget would consolidate grants now authorized under the Missing
Children’s Assistance Act, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, Victims
of Child Abuse Act, and other acts into a “single flexible grant program,” and OJP
would use the funds to make competitive discretionary grants to assist state and local96
governments in addressing multiple child safety and juvenile justice needs.
Advocates have raised concerns that a block grant could reduce federal leadership
95 U.S. Department of Justice, Report to Congress on AMBER Alert, p. 7.
96 U.S. Department of Justice, FY2009 Performance Budget, Office of Justice Programs, pp.
and oversight over the programs, as well as decrease in appropriations in the future.97
Advocates also question whether child exploitation activities and juvenile justice
programs should be combined into a single funding stream, given their distinct
P.L. 110-240 authorizes NCMEC to engage in particular data collection
activities. As discussed above, the law permits NCMEC to report to DOJ the number
of missing and recovered children but not to engage in data collection other than
receiving reports about missing children. Further, P.L. 110-240 authorizes NCMEC
to take reports through its CyberTipline of incidents of child exploitation under
multiple exploitation categories; NCMEC already took these reports prior to the
enactment of P.L. 110-240.
OJJDP has funded two data collection waves since the Missing Children’s
Assistance Act passed in 1984. The most recent wave, NISMART-2, conducted in
except in the case of nonfamily abductions and runaways (however, the survey did
not distinguish between the share of children who ran away because of sexual abuse
from those who experienced physical abuse, and it did not report the share of children
who experienced both forms of abuse). Further, due to the limited number of
nonfamily abductions each year, the estimates of caretaker missing and reported
missing cases are imprecise.99 Limited data for all types of missing episodes also
precluded NISMART-2 from drawing conclusions about episode types by region.
In 2007, NCMEC studied the feasibility of counting missing and exploited
children in a way that provides more detailed and current region-specific data.
However, because NCMEC cannot use federal funds to conduct studies of victims,
the organization has determined that it will continue to use NISMART-2 data to
explain victimization data for cases not reported to law enforcement.100 The
organization reports that it will work with the Association of State Uniform Crime
Reporting Programs (ASUCRP) and the FBI to improve the use of the National
Crime Information Center (NCIC), Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), and the National
Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) to collect information on cases of missing
and exploited children. Together, these entities will (1) develop a plan to change the
categories in the NCIC Missing Person File to more closely relate to definitions used
by NCMEC; (2) improve quality control for NCIC for entries of missing children;
and (3) provide training and technical assistance to law enforcement agencies on how
97 John Kelly, “Are Justice Funds Up for Grabs? Bush Plan to Overhaul OJJDP Grants
Draws Ire.” Youth Today, March 2007, p. 1.
99 Finkelhor, Hammer, Sedlak, Nonfamily Abducted Children, p. 7. See discussion of
NISMART-2 earlier in this report for explanation of “caretaker missing” and “reported
100 This information was provided to The Congressional Research Service by NCMEC in
to accurately report missing and exploited children cases in the UCR and NIBRS.
NCMEC plans to use improved information from the three data sources to educate
the public and inform policymakers about cases of missing and exploited children.
National Emergency Child Locator Center
P.L. 110-240 specifies that MEC funds may be used to operate the National
Emergency Child Locator Center (NECLC). The law also adds as a purpose of the
MEC program that it helps children who go missing because of natural disasters such
as hurricanes and floods.
During the evacuations of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, thousands of
children were separated from their parents and sent to different emergency shelters.
NCMEC was asked by DOJ to lead federal and local efforts to recover missing
children. As part of its response, NCMEC created a special Katrina/Rita hotline and
mobilized Team Adam personnel to locate and reunite all missing and dislocated
children (over 5,000) with their families.101 Recognizing the need for formalized
coordination efforts in disasters or emergencies, Congress passed legislation (P.L.
109-295) requiring FEMA to establish the National Emergency Child Locator Center
(NECLC) within NCMEC. The law also required that the FEMA Administrator
establish procedures so that all relevant information about displaced children will be
made immediately available to NCMEC.
In early calendar year 2007, NCMEC developed a Disaster Response Plan
(DRP) describing how NCMEC intends to respond to disasters through the
NECLC.102 The plan details the response to a continuum of disaster types.103 For
example, NCMEC would operate its hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week to
respond to questions from law enforcement and other emergency officials for a Level
1 disaster (a local man-made or natural disaster, such as a fire). A Level 4 disaster
(a catastrophic event declared by the President, such as Hurricane Katrina) would
warrant NCMEC deploying 60 Team Adam staff in the field to shelters established
in a multi-state region. Also in early calendar year 2007, NCMEC submitted a
preliminary estimate to DHS/FEMA for the cost of expanding its operations in the
event of a disaster or if its main office in Alexandria becomes inoperable due to a
local or regional disaster. The cost estimate seeks funding for deployed staff, long-
term technological infrastructure (such as outsourcing calls during peak periods), and
expanding operations at its field offices in California and Florida to serve as backup
call centers and support staff during disasters. NCMEC estimates that $4.2 million
101 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Annual Report 2005, pp. 5-7.
102 NCMEC and DHS/FEMA have not yet entered into an interagency agreement formally
establishing the NECLC. NCMEC has entered into an agreement with DHS/FEMA, DOJ,
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Red Cross to provide missing adult
referrals to and support the activities of the National Emergency Family Registry and
Locator System (NEFRLS), created under P.L. 109-295. NEFRLS will be operated by
DHS/FEMA to help reunify families separated after a disaster.
103 This information was provided to The Congressional Research Service by NCMEC in
April of 2007.
is needed for start-up costs and $1.2 million is needed for ongoing costs.104
According to NCMEC, the organization is making progress in securing an off-site
facility to handle large-scale activations such as Hurricane Katrina. NCMEC has not
received federal funding for the NECLC in FY2007 or FY2008, although the
organization is working to secure private financial support for NECLC operations.105
The NECLC was activated in October 2007 upon notification by FEMA in
response to the California wildfires. The organization established a special toll-free
number and made the number available to FEMA and media outlets for
publication.106 NCMEC’s Team Adam Consultants who reside in the San Diego area
were placed on standby for possible deployment to the affected areas. Case managers
in NCMEC’s California branch managed the calls received about the wildfires. Only
three calls were made — primarily due to loss of telephone contact — and none were
of an emergency nature. NCMEC staff maintained contact with FEMA throughout
the activation period. The deployment of the NECLC for the wildfires entailed no
expenses outside of the organization’s normal operating expenses.
Child Welfare Disaster Planning. The NECLC does not appear to address
children missing from foster care due to a disaster, though the federal government
has recently issued guidelines regarding how state child welfare systems should
respond to disasters.
During the Gulf Coast hurricanes, thousands of children in foster care were
forced to evacuate their homes. Almost 2,000 of Louisiana’s 5,000 foster children
were displaced by the hurricanes, and nearly one out of five displaced foster children
left the state.107 The state’s child welfare system had difficulty tracking the children
during and after the hurricanes. Foster parents knew to call the child welfare agency,
but social workers’ phones were not operational for weeks following Hurricane
Katrina. Louisiana officials experienced difficulty contacting the children because
case information was not in a central database and more than 300 current records
were destroyed. At the time, there were no federal requirements to develop child
welfare disaster plans, and only 20 states and D.C. had a written plan (Louisiana and108
Mississippi were among the states that lacked a plan). Of those plans, 19
addressed preserving child welfare records, 13 addressed identifying children who
might be dispersed, and 10 addressed coordination with other states.
In August 2006, Congress passed P.L. 109-288 to amend the Child Welfare
Services program (Title IV-B, Subpart 1 of the Social Security Act), requiring that
states develop procedures, no later than September 29, 2007, to respond to and
104 Ibid, May of 2007.
105 Ibid, February of 2008.
107 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Lessons Learned for Protecting and Educating
Children after the Gulf Coast Hurricanes, GAO-06-680R, May 2006, p. 3.
108 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Child Welfare: Federal Action Needed to
Ensure States Have Plans to Safeguard Children in the Child Welfare System Displaced by
Disasters, GAO-06-944, July 2006, p. 2.
maintain child welfare services in the wake of a disaster. The act specified that HHS
establish criteria for how state child welfare systems would respond. These criteria
include (1) identify, locate, and continue services for children under the care or
supervision of the state and who are displaced or adversely affected by the disaster;
(2) respond appropriately to new child welfare cases in areas adversely affected by
a disaster and provide services in those cases; (3) remain in communication with
caseworkers and other essential child welfare personnel displaced because of a
disaster; (4) preserve essential program records; and (5) coordinate services and share
information with other states.109 In February 2007, HHS issued guidelines requiring
states to submit, in their child welfare plan,110 procedures describing how the state
would respond to a disaster based on the five criteria above, before the end of
FY2007.111 HHS has also updated its 1995 guide to assist child welfare agencies
develop disaster relief plans.112
Children Missing From Foster Care
The Missing Children’s Assistance Act does not include provisions for children
missing from foster care; however, media attention to the case of Rilya Wilson, a six-
year-old foster child missing from the Florida child welfare system and presumed
to have been murdered, has raised concerns about Florida and other states’113 ability
to track children in the foster care system and ensure their safety while under the
custody of the child welfare agency.
A child is considered missing from foster care if she or he is not in the physical
custody of the child welfare agency or the institution or person with whom the child
has been placed, due to (1) the child leaving voluntarily without permission (i.e.,
runaways); (2) the family or nonfamily member removing the child, either voluntarily
or involuntarily, without permission (i.e., abductions); or (3) a lack of oversight by
the child welfare agency.114 The majority of children known to be missing from
foster care are runaways. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, on the last day of FY2005, approximately 11,000 (2%) of the 513,000
109 42 U.S.C. §622(b)(16).
110 To receive federal funding, state child welfare agencies must submit annually its
procedures for carrying out the federal Child Welfare Services program.
111 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and
Families, Children’s Bureau, Annual Progress and Services Report, February 28, 2007,
available online at [http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb/laws_policies/policy/pi/2007/
112 Mary O’Brien, Sarah Webster, and Angela Herrick, Coping with Disasters and
Strengthening Systems: A Framework for Child Welfare Agencies, University of Southern
Maine, Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service, February 2007, available online at
[http://muski e.usm.maine.edu/helpki ds/rcpdfs/copingwithdisasters.pdf].
113 Megan O’Matz and Sally Krestin, “States Share DCF’s Woes; Caseworkers Elsewhere
Often Unable to Find Missing Children,” Sun-Sentinel, September 15, 2002, p. 1A.
114 Caren Kaplan, Children Missing from Care, Child Welfare League of America, 2004.
The report is available at [http://www.cwla.org/programs/fostercare/childmiss.htm].
(Hereafter referred to as Kaplan, Children Missing from Care.)
children in foster care had run away, and another 4,400 had exited the system as
runaways.115 However, these figures do not convey the total number of children who
go missing.116 Kids can go missing for a variety of reasons, including abduction or
benign circumstances, such as misunderstandings about a schedule.
No federal laws specifically address the issue of children missing from foster
care. However, Titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act require state child
welfare agencies to monitor and provide for the safety and well-being of children in
out-of-home foster care.117 Under Section 471 (Title IV-E), states are eligible for
federal foster care maintenance payments if, among other requirements, they develop
a case plan (as defined under Section 475, which also applies to Title IV-B) for each
child that details the type of home or institution in which the child is placed. The
case plan must discuss the safety and appropriateness of the placement and a plan for
assuring that the child receives safe and proper care.
States must also develop a system (as defined under Section 475) to review, no
less than every six months, the status of the child’s case plan. Also, under Section
471, states must check child abuse and neglect registries (including federal crime
databases) for criminal information about prospective and current foster parents.
Finally, under Section 424 (Title IV-B), states must ensure that children in foster care
are visited by their caseworkers on a monthly basis and that the majority of the visits
occur in the child’s residence. Section 424 sets forth a penalty structure for violating
these and other requirements.
In response to the Rilya Wilson case, the Child Welfare League (CWLA), a
child advocacy organization, in partnership with NCMEC, created the Children
Missing from Care Project in 2004. Drawing on the expertise of policymakers, child
welfare advocates, and law enforcement officials, the CWLA and NCMEC
developed best practices guidelines around missing foster children.118 The guidelines
115 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and
Families, The AFCARS Report #13, September 2005. The report is available at
[http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/index.htm#afcars]. For additional
information about the runaway children population, see CRS Report RL33785, Runaway
and Homeless Youth: Demographics, Programs, and Emerging Issues, by Adrienne L.
116 Some states and counties have calculated the number of missing foster children under
their care, based on jurisdiction-specific definitions. After the Rilya Wilson incident,
Florida determined that 393 children were missing from care, of whom 339 (86.3%) had run
away and 31 (7.9%) were parentally abducted. A small share (4.8%) of children were
endangered, meaning that they were missing under circumstances that put them in physical
danger, such as a predatory abduction or kidnapping.
117 Titles IV-B and IV-E and related sections of the Social Security Act are compiled at
[http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/laws_policies/cblaws/safe2003.htm]. See also 42
U.S.C. §§620-629i, 670-679b.
118 Child Welfare League of America, CWLA Best Practice Guidelines: Children Missing
From Care, 2005 and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Children
Missing From Care: The Law enforcement Response, 2005. The NCMEC publication is
provide a framework for collaboration between the law enforcement agency and the
child welfare agency. They recommend that the two share a uniform definition of
missing children (based on the three criteria outlined above) and a clear delineation
of shared and distinct roles. Child welfare agencies and law enforcement officials
are encouraged to receive cross-training and to create an integrated local information
system about children.
The guidelines provide guidance to child welfare agencies to prevent missing-
from-care episodes, including quality supervision; training stakeholders about risk
factors for running away; and frequent contacts between case workers and children,
caregivers, and birth families. To respond effectively to missing episodes, the
guidelines recommend that child welfare agencies provide accurate and up-to-date
records with information about the child and a management information system to
track information related to missing episodes.
Relevant Pending Legislation. Legislation in the 110th Congress would
require states to create procedures for reducing missing-from-care incidents and to
recover those children who do go missing. The Place to Call Home Act (H.R. 3409)
and Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act of 2007 (H.R. 4208/S. 2560)
propose amending Section 471 of the Social Security Act to require states to include
in their foster care and adoption assistance plans a description of their written
policies and procedures designed to reduce the incidence of children missing or
running away from foster care and to locate and return these children to foster care
Approximately 20% of the cases reported annually to the NCIC’s Missing
Person File include individuals age 18 and older.120 NCMEC provides services for
missing young adults ages 18 to 20, pursuant to Suzanne’s Law, which was passed
as part of the PROTECT Act.121 This law amended the Missing Children’s
Assistance Act by requiring law enforcement agencies to enter individuals under the
age of 21 into the NCIC.122 NCMEC processes young adult cases differently than
cases for missing children. NCMEC will accept a young adult case only if it is
reported by a law enforcement officer — and not by parents, spouses, partners, or
others — because NCMEC relies on the officer to verify that the young adult is
available at [http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/ResourceServlet?Language
119 A forthcoming CRS report will provide an overview of missing adults and federal efforts
to assist in preventing missing incidents and locating those adults who do go missing.
120 NCIC Missing Person File.
121 Suzanne’s Law was passed as part of the PROTECT Act (P.L. 108-21). It raised the age
of missing children reported to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center from age 17
to age 20. 42 U.S.C. §5779(a).
122 No corresponding amendments to the Missing Children’s Assistance Act have been made
to reflect that NCMEC is authorized to accept cases of missing children ages 18 to 20.
missing due to foul play or other reasons that would cause concern about the
individual’s whereabouts (e.g., diminished mental capacity). Once individuals reach
the age of majority, they may have legitimate reasons for becoming missing, such as
seeking protection from a domestic abuser.
Some states maintain databases of missing adults (age 18 and older) and assist
local law enforcement with missing adult cases, and federal law authorizes funding
for missing adult activities. In 2000, Congress passed Kristen’s Act (P.L. 106-
468),123 which authorized $1 million in funding from FY2001 to FY2004 and
permitted DOJ to make grants to assist law enforcement agencies in locating missing
adults; maintain a database for tracking adults believed by law enforcement to be
endangered due to age, diminished mental capacity, and possible foul play; maintain
statistical information on missing adults; provide resources and referrals to the
families of missing adults; and establish and maintain a national clearinghouse for
missing adults. The National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA), a non-profit
organization, received funding under P.L. 106-468 from FY2002 through FY2006.
Among other activities, the organization maintains a database of missing adults
believed to be endangered and coordinates missing adult activities among law
enforcement agencies, families, and the media.124 NCMA has reported that it may
be forced to close due to financial constraints of serving families of adults who went
missing during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.125
123 42 U.S.C. §14665.
124 For additional information, see [http://www.theyaremissed.org/ncma/].
Appendix A: Demographics of
Missing and Exploited Children
This appendix provides additional information about demographics of missing
and exploited children, including definitions of missing children, characteristics of
missing children episodes, the number of children sexually abused or at risk of sexual
exploitation, and the effects of missing and exploitation incidents on victims and
Definitions of Missing Children
NISMART-2 classified missing children under five categories. Figure A1
defines these five categories.
Figure A1. Categories of Missing Children
Source: Congressional Research Service presentation of definitions in Sedlak et al.,
National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview, U.S. Department of Justice, Office
of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, October 2002, p. 4.
Incidents of Missing and Non-Missing Children
Some children in NISMART-2 were not counted as missing (i.e., “non-missing”
children) because their short-term or long-term missing incident failed to alarm their
caretakers and/or prompt their caretakers to report them as missing. Such cases
included runaway or thrownaway children who went to the home of a relative or
friend, causing their caretakers little or no concern; children held by family members
in known locations, such as the home of an ex-spouse; and children abducted by
nonfamily but released before anyone noticed their absence. Table A1 includes a
combined total number of missing and non-missing children within each category.
Note that estimates of non-missing children cannot be totaled across categories.
Table A1. Missing and Non-Missing Children
Runaway/thrownaway 628,900 1,054,000
Missing involuntarily, lost, ora198,3000
Missing benign explanationa374,7000
Source: Congressional Research Service presentation of data from Andrea J. Sedlak et al., National
Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention, October 2002, p. 10.
a. By definition, all children with these episodes are known to be missing.
Characteristics of Missing Children
Runaway and Thrownaway Children. The majority of runaway and
thrownaway children in the NISMART-2 study were between the ages of 15 and 17
(68% of all cases), followed by children ages 12 and 14.126 An equal number of boys
and girls experienced runaway or thrownaway incidents. White children made up the
largest share of runaways (57%), followed by black children (17%) and Hispanic
children (15%). Over half of all children left home for one to six days, and 30%
traveled approximately one to 10 miles. An additional 31% traveled more than10 to
50 miles. Nearly all (99%) runaway and thrownaway children were returned to their
homes. Based on 17 indicators of harm or potential risk measured in NISMART-2,
71% of the surveyed children were placed at risk for harm when they were away from
home.127 The survey found that 17% of runaway children used hard drugs and 18%
126 Hammer, Finkelhor, and Sedlak, Runaway/Thrownaway Children.
127 Jan Moore, Unaccompanied and Homeless Children Review of Literature (1995-2005),
National Center for Homeless Education, 2005, p. 6, available online from the Center at
were in the company of someone known to be abusing drugs when they were away
from home. Other risk factors included spending time in a place where criminal
activity was known to occur (12%), involvement with a violent person (7%), and
physical assault or attempted physical assault by another person (4%).
In other studies of runaways and thrownaways, children most often cite family
conflict as the major reason for leaving home or being forced to leave home.128 A
child’s relationship with a step-parent, sexual activity, sexual orientation, pregnancy,
school problems, and alcohol and drug use are strong predictors of family discord.
Over 20% of children in NISMART-2 reported being physically or sexually abused
at home in the prior year or feared abuse upon returning home.
Children Missing Involuntarily or for Benign Reasons. Children can
become missing involuntarily as a result of being lost or sustaining an injury that
prevents them from returning home or to their caretaker, such as a broken leg or a fall
that renders them unconscious. Benign circumstances such as miscommunication
among family members can also cause a child to be considered missing by their
caretakers. NISMART-2 found that most children missing involuntarily or for
benign reasons were white, male, and older. They disappeared most frequently in
wooded areas or parks and were most often gone for one hour to six hours (77% of
all cases). In most cases, their caretakers knew they were missing because they
disappeared from their supervision (39%) or failed to return home (29%).
Nonfamily Abductions. The experiences of children abducted by strangers,
slight acquaintances, or others (i.e., friends, babysitters) often involved detention in
an isolated place through the use of physical force or threat of bodily harm. More
serious abduction cases — known as stereotypical kidnappings — may also include
detaining the child overnight and transporting them outside of their community, with
the intent to keep the child permanently or kill the child. Extensive media coverage
about stereotypical kidnapping cases may contribute to the belief that these missing
children incidents are common. However, such cases are rare; about 115 (90 of
whom were caretaker/reported missing) of the estimated 58,200 victims of nonfamily
abductions in 1999 experienced a stereotypical kidnapping.129
With the caveat that NISMART-2 data on nonfamily abductions are not entirely
reliable because some estimates are based on too few sample cases, the most frequent
victims of both broadly defined nonfamily abductions and stereotypical nonfamily
[ h t t p : / / www.c d e . s t a t e . c o.us/cdeprevention/download/pdf/Homeless%20Youth%20
128 For additional information, see CRS Report RL33785, Runaway and Homeless Youth:
Demographics, Programs, and Emerging Issues, by Adrienne Fernandes.
129 David Finkelhor, Heather Hammer, and Andrea J. Sedlak, Nonfamily Abducted
Children: National Estimates and Characteristics, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, October 2002, p. 6. Available at
[http://www.ncj r s.gov/ pdffiles1/oj j dp/196467.pdf].
abductions were teenage girls ages 12 to 14.130 Approximately 60% of all victims,
male and female, were abducted by male acquaintances or strangers. Streets (32%
of all cases), parks or wooded areas (25%), and other public places (14%) were
places from which children were typically abducted, and children who were moved,
were taken into vehicles (45%) or to the perpetrator’s home (28%). In nearly half of
all broadly defined and stereotypical kidnapping incidents, the perpetrator sexually
assaulted the child, and in a third of the cases, the perpetrator physically assaulted the
child. Less than one percent of children missing due to a nonfamily abduction failed
to return home alive.
Family Abductions. Approximately 63% of children abducted by family
members were with the abductor under lawful circumstances directly prior to the131
incident. In these cases, disputes between family members about custodial rights
and privileges may have triggered the abduction. Perpetrators most often were the132
child’s father (53% of all cases), followed by the mother (25%) and other relatives.
Most children were abducted from their own home or someone else’s home, and
nearly all the episodes did not involve the use of threat or force. Children age 11 and
under and children not living with both parents appeared to be the most likely victims
of parental abduction. Almost half of children abducted by family members were
returned to the primary caretaker in one week or less, and the majority were returned
within one month.
International Family Abductions. NISMART-2 does not track the number
of international family abductions; however, a 1998 survey of nearly 100 left-behind
parents by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, in
collaboration with three missing children’s organizations, provides some insight into
the characteristics of international abductions by family members.133 Nearly half of
130 Estimates of nonfamily abductions are based on the combination of data collected in the
NISMART-2 Household Surveys and the Law Enforcement Study. The Household Surveys,
in which adults and children were interviewed by phone, provide data on broadly defined
nonfamily abductions. These surveys are limited because they may have undercounted
children who experienced episodes but were living in households without telephones or
were not living in households during the study period. Children who were reported as
victims in both the adult and children interviews were counted only once in the unified
estimate. The Law Enforcement Study yielded data on stereotypical kidnappings.
131 Estimates for family abductions are based on data collected in the NISMART-2
Household Surveys. Respondents to family abduction questions were (1) mainly female
caretakers of children and (2) generally was the aggrieved caretaker who provided all of the
information regarding custodial rights to determine whether a family abduction had
occurred. NISMART-2 researchers did not attempt to verify respondent statements.
132 Heather Hammer, David Finkelhor, and Andrea J. Sedlak, Children Abducted by Family
Members: National Estimates and Characteristics, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, October 2002, at [http://www.ncjrs.gov/
pdffiles1/oj j dp/196466.pdf].
133 Janet Chiancone, Linda Girdner, and Patricia Hoff, Issues in Resolving Cases of
International Child Abduction by Parents, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention, December 2001. The report is available at
the abductions occurred during a court-ordered visitation by the abducting parent and
child. Gender of the child did not appear to be a factor in the abduction, but abducted
children tended to be young, with a median age of five years old. In approximately
70% of the cases, the responding parents reported that the child had been located, and
25% said they always knew their child’s precise location. About 40% of the parents
reported that their child had been recovered by the time of the survey. In half of the
cases in which the child was recovered, the separation lasted one year, compared to
five years for half the cases in which the child was not recovered.
Missing Incident Effects on Victims and Their Families
Although few children are killed during a missing incident, their perpetrators
may abuse them sexually or physically. Children abducted by nonfamily members are
most vulnerable to abuse while away from the care of their families. According to
NISMART-2, approximately half of all broadly defined and stereotypical abductions
involved sexually assault, and one-third involved physical abuse.134 Children
involved in family abductions also experience trauma. A study coordinated by
NCMEC of 371 searching parents, nearly half of whom had recovered their children,
found that in many cases, home life prior to the abduction was chaotic.135 Domestic
violence was present in more than half of all relationships, and abductions were
threatened in advance of the actual event in almost half of the cases.
Children abducted by family members may also face challenges after they have
been recovered. In a longitudinal study of 32 recovered children who had been
kidnapped by one of their parents and hidden for an average of 2.7 years, over a
quarter of left-behind parents perceived that their children were prone to self
destructive behaviors and nearly half reported that their children had more physical
ailments than their peers.136 According to these parents, approximately three-quarters
of their children had received mental health services after the incident.
Parents also experience trauma during and after the missing child incident.
When parents learn that their child is missing, they may feel overwhelmed by
organizing efforts to recover their child.137 Within the first two days of the incident,
[http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/190105.pdf]. (Hereafter U.S. Department of Justice,
International Child Abduction by Parents.)
134 Finkelhor, Hammer, Sedlak, Nonfamily Abducted Children, p. 10.
135 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Family Abduction: Prevention and
Response, 5th ed., March 2002, available at [http://www.ncmec.org/en_US/publications/
136 Geoffrey L. Greif, “A Parental Report on the Long-Term Consequences for Children of
Abduction by the Other Parent,” Child Psychiatry and Human Development, vol. 21, no. 1,
Fall 2000, p. 66.
137 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, When
Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide, October 2002. The report is availableat
at [http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/pubs/childismissing/contents.html]. (Hereafter referred to as U.S.
they often must alert the police and missing children agencies, organize volunteers,
and speak with the media. Left-behind parents of children abducted by family
members may not receive adequate support from local law enforcement officials. In
2001, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that the majority of law enforcement
agencies and prosecutors’ offices lacked written policies and procedures governing
the processing of parental abduction cases, do not train staff in how to respond to
theses cases, and do not have specific programs to address the crime.138
Left-behind parents in international family abduction cases experience even
greater obstacles to finding and recovering the child. The American Bar Association
Center on Children and the Law survey found that most of the left-behind parents did
not have sufficient funds to search for their child and experienced difficulties with
foreign laws and officials, U.S. law, costs of recovering children abducted abroad,
U.S. judges’ inexperience with foreign abduction law, and inadequate response by
law enforcement agencies.139 The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of
International Child Abduction obligates countries who have signed the convention
to bring proceedings in the party country to which the child was abducted or in which
the child is detained. Left-behind parents of children abducted to non-Hague
Convention countries face additional challenges in navigating those legal systems to
recover their children.140
Incidents of Child Sexual Abuse
and Child Sexual Exploitation
As discussed above, the true number of sexual exploitation incidents, whether
or not they accompany missing children cases, is not known because the abuse often
goes undetected. Nonetheless, some studies are available to provide insight into the
prevalence of sexual exploitation.
Sexual Abuse Among Children in the Child Welfare System.
Incidents of child abuse — including sexual abuse — and neglect by a caretaker that
are reported to the state child welfare system may lead to the removal of a child from
his or her home. Two studies track the share of children each year who enter foster
care as a result of sexual abuse by their caretaker or family member. The National
Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), administered by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, provides case-level data on all children
under age 18 who received an investigation or assessment by a state child protective
services agency. NCANDS is not a nationally representative sample because states
are not required to report data, though the majority of states have provided data since
the first NCANDS report was issued for CY2000 (beginning in 2002, NCANDS
Department of Justice, When Your Child is Missing.)
138 Kathi L. Grasso et al., The Criminal Justice System’s Response to Parental Abduction,
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,
December 2001, p. 7, at [http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/186160.pdf].
139 Ibid, pp. 6-8.
140 U.S. Department of Justice, “International Child Abduction by Parents,” pp. 2-3.
began to collect data on a federal fiscal year basis). Sexual abuse is defined
differently across states, but generally includes acts of rape, sexual assault, indecent
exposure, as well as facilitating prostitution and creating and distributing
pornography.141 The FY2005 NCANDS report estimated that 9.3% of children, or
Using NCANDS data from 1990 to 2000, researchers have found a decline in
the number of sexual abuse cases, from an estimated 150,000 cases to 89,500
cases.143 Researchers have concluded that multiple factors likely contributed to the
downward trend, and that one of those factors was probably a true decline in the
occurrence of sexual abuse.144 A true decline in the number of sexual abuse cases is
substantiated by a decrease of 56% from 1993 to 2000 in self-reported measures of
sexual assault and sexual abuse by children ages 12 to 17 in the National Crime
Victimization Survey, conducted annually by the Census Bureau.145 This decline was
due primarily to the decrease in the number of offenses committed by a family
member or acquaintance.
Another analysis of children in the child welfare system provides nationally
representative data of the characteristics and functioning of children, including rates
of sexual victimization. Known as the National Survey of Child and Adolescent
Well-Being (NSCAW), the study found in its first wave of data collection (from
October 1999 to December 2000) that 11% of children were sexually abused.146
Sexual abuse was defined along a continuum, which included fondling/molestation
(without genital contact) or other less severe types (e.g., exposure to sex or
pornography), masturbation, digital penetration of sexual organs, oral copulation (of
adult or child), and intercourse. Molestation accounted for just over one-half (55%)
141 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect.
142 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and
Families, Child Maltreatment 2005, April 2007. The report is available at
[ ht t p: / / www.acf .hhs.gov/ pr ogr ams/ cb/ pubs/ c m05/ ] .
143 David Finkelhor and Lisa M. Jones, Explanation for the Decline in Child Sexual Abuse
Cases, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,
January 2004. The report is available at [http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/199298.pdf].
144 Other factors may include decline in the number of self-reports of sexual abuse by
victims; decline in related social problems; greater decline in the most readily preventable
cases of sexual abuse; and increase in the incarceration of offenders. For further discussion
see, Ibid, p. 8.
145 Ibid, pp. 8-9.
146 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and
Families, National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW): CPS Sample
Component Wave 1 Data Analysis Report, April 2005. The report is available at
[http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/nscaw/]. NSCAW provides
information about the characteristics of children and families who came into contact with
the child welfare system through an investigation by child protective services. The sample
includes children whose cases were closed after the investigation, and who remained at
home; those who remained at home, but had a case opened to child welfare services, and
those who were removed from their homes as a result of the investigation.
of all cases, followed by intercourse (11.4%), digital penetration of sexual organs
(11.4%), oral copulation (9.4%), and masturbation (5.2%).
Online Victimization of Children. A true estimate of the number of
children sexually exploited over the Internet is unknown. Over 21,000 reports of
online child enticement and over 4,000 reports of obscene material sent to a child
were recorded by the CyberTipline through December 2006. The Youth Internet
Safety Survey conducted in March to June 2005 by the University of New
Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center (commissioned by NCMEC
and supported by OJJDP) found that children using the Internet are vulnerable to
unwanted sexual solicitation, unwanted exposure to sexual material, and harassment
(these categories do not necessarily reflect incidents of child sexual exploitation).147
The share of children exposed to sexual material and solicited online was greater
in 2005 than in the previous survey conducted in August 1999 to February 2000.
Despite increased use of filtering, blocking, and monitoring software in households
of children Internet users, in 2005, more than one-third of children Internet users
(34%) saw sexual material online they did not want to see in the past year compared
to one-quarter (25%) of children surveyed in 1999 and 2000. Online harassment also
increased to 9%, from 6%. However, a smaller share of children (13%) received
sexual solicitations compared to children in the previous survey (19%).
Commercial Sexual Exploitation. The commercial sexual exploitation of
children refers to acts of prostitution, pornography, sex trafficking, and sex rings for
financial gain.148 No studies appear to exist that provide the national prevalence and
incidence of commercially exploited children. Estimates have been made, however,
of the number of children in groups classified as “high-risk” for commercial sexual
exploitation. These groups include sexually exploited children not living in their
own homes (i.e., runaway, thrownaway, and homeless children); sexually exploited
children living in their own homes; other groups of sexually exploited children,
including female gang members who have become victims as a result of their gang
147 Janice Wolak, Kimberly Mitchell, and David Finkelhor, Online Victimization of
Children: Five Years Later, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2006. The
report is available at [http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV138.pdf]. Unwanted sexual
solicitation is defined by the study as a request to engage in sexual acts or sexual activities
or give personal sexual information that were unwanted, or whether unwanted or not, were
made by an adult; unwanted exposure to sexual materials refers to a child being exposed to
pictures of nude people or people having sex, when conducting online searches, surfing the
web, or using e-mail and instant messaging; and harassment refers to threats or other
offensive behavior (not sexual solicitation) sent online to the child or posted online about
the child for others to see.
148 The United States is viewed as a primary source of child-sex tourists abroad. In a sample
of information about foreign child-sex tourists in Southeast Asia, tourists from the United
States were the largest group. See Eva J. Klain, Prostitution of Children and Child-Sex
Tourism: An Analysis of Domestic and International Responses, National Center for Missing
and Exploited Children, April 1999; available at [http://www.icmec.org/missingkids/servlet/
ResourceServlet?LanguageCountry=en_X1&PageId=2704]. (Hereafter referred to as Eva
J. Klain, Prostitution of Children and Child Sex Tourism).
membership and transgender street children; and U.S. children and children traveling
abroad and in the United States for sexual purposes.149
Causes and Effects of Child Sexual Exploitation
Child sexual exploitation can first occur in the child’s home.150 Physical or
sexual abuse by family members may lead to children running away or being
“thrownaway.” While away from home, children may experience further exploitation.
An estimated 9.5% of children in shelters and 27.5% of children living on the street
engage in “survival sex” to provide for their subsistence needs.151 While money is
often cited as the primary reason for engaging in prostitution, children and
adolescents also report their involvement was an escape from family problems or the
result of a romantic relationship.152
Child sexual exploitation can also begin outside of the family. Sexual
exploitation originating outside the home can be precipitated by other factors — the
presence of large numbers of unattached and transient males in a community such as
military personnel and truckers; female gang membership; and active recruitment into
prostitution by pimps. Solo sex rings involve a single adult who often knows the
child and parent and has ready access to the child.153 After gaining access to the
child, the adult engages in illicit sexual activities and manipulates and coerces the
victim into keeping the abuse secret. Sex-ring activities include behaviors that occur
with a combination of psychological pressure and physical force, with acts of sexual
seduction to rape. Among multiple-adult sex rings, child pornography and sexual
activities may be exchanged between adults with or without financial transactions.
The effects of child sexual exploitation are both immediate and long-term.
When sexual abuse is not disclosed and the abuse continues, the child encapsulates
the trauma, disrupting the development of other areas of the child’s life.154 The
trauma is reinforced when the offender demands silence and secrecy about the abuse
and the child sets up defenses to disguise the abuse. Studies of victims indicate that
children experience a range of long-term physical and emotional problems —
headaches, sleeping disorders, eating disorders, and feelings of anxiety, fear,
depression, guilt, and shame that are sometime diagnosed as post-traumatic stress
149 For methodology of estimates of groups of children, see Richard J. Estes and Neil Alan
Weiner, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico,
Executive Summary of the U.S. National Summary, September 2001. The report is available
at [http://www.sp2.upenn.edu/~restes/CSEC_Files/Exec_Sum_020220.pdf]. (Hereafter
referred to as Estes and Weiner, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.)
150 Ann Wolbert Burgess and Christine A. Grant, Children Traumatized in Sex Rings,
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1988, p. 3. (Hereafter referred to as
Burgess and Grant, Children Traumatized in Sex Rings.)
151 J.M. Greene et al., Prevalence and Correlates of Survival Sex Among Runaway and
Homeless Youth, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 89, no. 9, pp. 1406-1409.
152 Eva J. Klain, Prostitution of Children and Child Sex Tourism, p. 35.
153 Burgess and Grant, Children Traumatized in Sex Rings, p. 7.
154 Ibid, pp. 21-25.
disorder (PTSD).155 Victims are vulnerable to acting out in school by fighting and
skipping class or experiencing sexual problems such as heightened sexual activity
and preoccupation with sex and nudity. Children involved in prostitution may
become pregnant and later engage in adult prostitution.
155 John E.B. Myers, Child Protection in America: Past, Present, and Future. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2006, pp 104-105.
Appendix B: Federal Criminal Code Provisions
Governing Child Sexual Exploitation
Section P rohibition(s)
18 U.S.C. §1470Transferring obscene material to another individual under age
16, or attempts to do so, using the mail or any facility or
means of interstate or foreign commerce
18 U.S.C. §1591Recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, or
obtaining by any means, a minor, or benefitting financially or
by receiving anything of value by doing so, knowing that
force, fraud, or coercion will be used for that minor to engage
in a commercial sex act
18 U.S.C. §2241(c)Engaging in a sexual act with a child under age 12 or
engaging a child ages 12 to 16 by using force or threat, or by156
other means, or attempting to do so
18 U.S.C. §2243Engaging in a sexual act with a child ages 12 to 16 who is at
least four years younger than the perpetrator
18 U.S.C. §2244Engaging in or causing sexual contact with another person if
it would violate 18 U.S.C. §§§2241, 2242, 2243
18 U.S.C. §2250Failing to register or update a registration as required by the
Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act where that
person has either been convicted of certain sexual offenses in
federal court or travels in interstate or foreign commerce, or
resides in, Indian country
18 U.S.C. §2251(a)Employing, using, or enticing a minor to engage in sexually
explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual
depiction of that conduct
18 U.S.C. §2251(b)Parent or guardian permitting a minor to engage in sexually
explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual
depiction of the conduct
18 U.S.C. §2251(c)Employing, using, or enticing a minor to engage in sexually
explicit conduct outside the United States to produce a visual
depiction of that conduct for the purpose of transporting it to
the United States
156 Other means refers to rendering another person unconscious and thereby engaging in a
sexual act with that other person; administering to another person by force or threat of force,
or without the knowledge or permission of that person, a drug, intoxicant, or other similar
substance and thereby substantially impairing the person’s ability to appraise or control
conduct or engaging in a sexual act with that person.
Section P rohibition(s)
18 U.S.C. §2251(d)Advertising to receive, trade, buy, or distribute a visual
depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct or
participating in any act of sexually explicit conduct with a
minor for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of the
18 U.S.C. §2251A(a)Parent or guardian selling or transferring custody of a minor
knowing or intending that the minor will be portrayed in a
visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct, or offering to do
18 U.S.C. §2251A(b)Purchasing or obtaining custody of a minor knowing or
intending that the minor will be portrayed in a visual depiction
of sexually explicit conduct, or offering to do so
18 U.S.C. §2252(a)(1)Transporting a visual depiction of a minor engaging in
sexually explicit conduct
18 U.S.C. §2252(a)(2)Receiving or distributing a visual depiction of a minor
engaging in sexually explicit conduct
18 U.S.C. §2252(a)(3)Selling, or possessing with intent to sell, a visual depiction of
a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct
18 U.S.C. §2252(a)(4)Possessing a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually
18 U.S.C. §2252A(a)(2)Receiving or distributing child pornography
18 U.S.C. §2252A(a)(3)Reproducing child pornography for distribution, or advertising
material as an obscene visual depiction of a minor engaging
in sexually explicit conduct
18 U.S.C. §2252A(a)(4)Selling or possessing with the intent to sell, child pornography
18 U.S.C. §2252A(a)(5)Possessing child pornography
18 U.S.C. §2252A(a)(6)Distributing child pornography to a minor for purposes of
persuading a minor to engage in illegal activity
18 U.S.C. §2252B(b)Using a misleading domain name on the Internet with the
intent to deceive a minor into viewing material that is harmful158
to minors on the Internet
157 Child pornography, as defined at 18 U.S.C. §2256(8) is “not only a visual depiction of
a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, but also a visual depiction that is
indistinguishable from that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct as well as a
visual depiction that has been created, adopted, or modified to appear that an identifiable
minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”
158 “Harmful to minors,” defined in 18 U.S.C. §2252B refers to “any communication,
consisting of nudity, sex, or excretion, that taken as a whole and with reference to its context
Section P rohibition(s)
18 U.S.C. §2260(a)Employing or using a minor to engage in sexually explicit
conduct outside the United States for purposes of producing
a visual depiction of that conduct to be transported into the
United States, or the transportation of a minor with the intent
to create such a visual depiction
18 U.S.C. §2260(b)Receiving, transporting, or distributing a visual depiction of
a minor outside the United States intending that it be imported
into the United States
18 U.S.C. §2421Transporting any individual across state lines or abroad, with
the intent that such individual engage in prostitution, or in any
18 U.S.C. §2422(a)Persuading, inducing, enticing, or coercing any person to
travel to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for
which any person can be charged with a criminal offense
18 U.S.C. §2422(b)Persuading, inducing, enticing, or coercing any person under
age 18 to travel to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity
for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense
18 U.S.C. §2423(a)Transporting a person under 18 with intent that the person
engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which any
person can be charged with a criminal offense
engage in any illicit sexual conduct with another person
18 U.S.C. §2423(c)Traveling abroad to engage in sexual conduct with another
18 U.S.C. §2425BTransmitting information about a person under 16 with the
intent to entice, encourage, or solicit any person to engage in
any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with
a criminal offense
Source: Compiled by the Congressional Research Service.
predominately appeals to prurient interest of minors; is patently offensive to prevailing
standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable materials for
minors; and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific values for minors.”
159 “Illicit sexual conduct,” defined in 18 U.S.C. §2423(f) refers to a sexual act with a person
under age 18 that would be in violation of federal sex abuse statutes if it occurred within the
special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or any commercial sex act
with a person under age 18.
Appendix C: The Missing Children’s Act of 1984
and Amendments to the Act
Year (Public Law)Legislative Creation and Amendments to the
Missing Children’s Assistance Act
1984 — Defines missing child as any individual under age
(P.L. 98-473)18 whose whereabouts are unknown to such
individual’s legal custodian if he or she was removed
from control of his or her legal custodian without
custodian’s consent or the circumstances strongly
indicate that such individual is likely to be abused or
— Directs OJJDP Administrator to
a. facilitate effective coordination among all federally
funded programs relating to missing children,
b. establish and operate a national toll-free telephone
line for individuals to report information regarding the
location of any missing child, or other child 13 years
old or younger whose whereabouts are unknown,
c. establish and operate a national resource center and
clearinghouse designed to provide technical assistance
to state and local governments and law enforcement
agencies, disseminate information about innovative
and model missing children’s programs, and
periodically conduct national incidence studies to
determine the number of missing children,
d. analyze, compile, publish, and disseminate an
annual summary of recently completed research
relating to missing children with emphasis on effective
models of inter-governmental coordination and
effective programs designed to promote community
awareness of missing children, among others, and
e. prepare an annual comprehensive plan for
facilitating cooperation and coordination among all
agencies and organizations with responsibilities
related to missing children;
— Authorizes OJJDP Administrator to make grants
and enter into contracts for research, demonstration
projects, or service programs designed to disseminate
information about missing children, locate missing
children, and collect information from states or
localities on the investigative practices used by law
enforcement agencies in missing children’s cases,
among other purposes; and
— Provides funding authorization at $10 million for
FY1985 and such sums as necessary for FY1986
Year (Public Law)Legislative Creation and Amendments to the
Missing Children’s Assistance Act
1988 — Removes the requirement that the OJJDP
(P.L. 100-690)Administrator analyze, compile, publish, and
disseminate an annual summary of recently completed
research concerning missing and exploited children;
— Requires OJJDP Administrator to submit a report,
within 180 days after the end of each fiscal year, to the
President and Congress, including a comprehensive
plan for facilitating cooperation and coordination
among all agencies and organizations with
responsibilities related to missing children; identify
and summarize effective models of cooperation;
identify and summarize effective programs for victims
of abduction; and describe in detail the activities in the
national resource center and clearinghouse, among
— Requires OJJDP Administrator to disseminate
information about free or low-cost legal, restaurant,
lodging, and transportation services available for the
families of missing children, as well as information
about the lawful use of school records and birth
certificates to identify and locate missing children;
— Requires OJJDP Administrator to establish annual
research, demonstration, and service program priorities
for making grants and contracts, and criteria based on
merit for making such grants and contracts; limits a
grant or contract to $50,000 unless the grant is
— Provides funding authorization at such sums as
necessary for FY1989 through FY1992.
1992 Provides funding authorization at such sums as
(P.L. 102-586)necessary for FY1993 through FY1996.
1994 — Establishes a task force composed of law
(P.L. 103-322)enforcement officers from pertinent federal agencies to
work with the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children and coordinate federal law
enforcement resources to assist state and local
authorities in investigating the most difficult cases of
missing and exploited children.
1996 — Requires that the OJJDP Administrator use only up
(P.L. 104-235)to 5% of the amount appropriated for a fiscal year to
conduct an evaluation of the effectiveness of programs
and activities under the Missing Children’s Assistance
— Provides funding authorization at such sums as
necessary for FY1997 through FY2001.
Year (Public Law)Legislative Creation and Amendments to the
Missing Children’s Assistance Act
1998Deletes the language to establish a task force
(P.L. 105-314)composed of law enforcement officers from pertinent
federal agencies to work with the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children.
1999 — Provides an annual grant to the National Center for
(P.L. 106-71)Missing and Exploited Children to carry out the
activities originally designated to the OJJDP
Administrator, including the following:
a. operate the national 24-hour, toll-free telephone
b. coordinate the operation of the telephone line with
the operation of the Runaway and Homeless Children
Program’s national communications system, and
c. operate the official national resource center and
information clearinghouse for missing and exploited
children, among other responsibilities;
— Requires the OJJDP Administrator to make grants
to or enter into contracts to periodically conduct
national incidence studies to determine for a given
year the actual number of children reported missing,
among other statistics; and
— Provides funding authorization for the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children at $10
million for FY2000 through FY2003 and such sums as
necessary for the Missing Children’s Assistance Act
program for these same years.
2003 — Provides funding authorization for the National
(P.L. 108-21)Center for Missing and Exploited Children at $20
million for FY2004 through FY2005; and
— Provides that the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children coordinate the operation of a cyber
tipline to provide online users an effective means of
reporting Internet-related child sexual exploitation in
the areas of distribution of child pornography, online
enticement of children for sexual acts, and child
2003Provides funding authorization for the National Center
(P.L. 108-96)for Missing and Exploited Children at $20 million for
FY2004 through FY2008 and such sums as necessary
for the Missing Children’s Assistance Act program for
these same years.
2006Changes the definition of missing child to any
(P.L. 109-248)individual less than 18 years of age whose
whereabouts are unknown to such individual’s legal
Year (Public Law)Legislative Creation and Amendments to the
Missing Children’s Assistance Act
2008Provides funding authorization for the National Center
(P.L. 110-240)for Missing and Exploited Children at $40 million for
FY2008 and such sums as necessary for FY2009
through FY2013, and such sums as necessary for the
Missing Children’s Assistance Act program for these
same years. The law also authorizes the OJP
Administrator to make the grant to NCMEC to carry
out specified activities, some of which were already
carried out by the organization before the law was
Source: Compiled by the Congressional Research Service.
Note: This compilation includes only legislation amending the Missing and Exploited Children’s
program at §5771 et seq.
Appendix D: Map of Statewide, Regional, and Local AMBER Alert Plans, as of May 1, 2007
Figure A2. AMBER Alert Plans
Source: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Appendix E: Other Federal Activities for Missing
Children and Child Sexual Exploitation
The Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and State, and the U.S. Postal
Service, among other federal agencies, investigate and prosecute sexual crimes
against children and pursue missing children cases. Some of their exploited and
missing children activities are discussed below. This discussion is not exhaustive of
all federal activities around missing children and child sexual exploitation.
Department of Justice160
Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (Criminal Division). The
Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) within the Justice Department’s
Criminal Division is a separate entity from the Child Protection Division within
OJJDP. In coordination with the U.S. Attorneys Offices, CEOS prosecutes violations
of federal law related to producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing child
pornography; transporting women or children interstate for such purposes of
engaging in criminal sexual activity; traveling interstate or internationally to sexually
abuse children; and international parental kidnapping.161 CEOS trains and advises
federal prosecutors and law enforcement personnel on child victim witness issues,
and develops and refines proposals for prosecution policies, legislation, government
practices, and agency regulations concerning child sexual exploitation and illegal
transport of children. In 2003, the High Technology Investigative Unit was created
within the section to understand and analyze new technology used to facilitate child
exploitation crimes. This unit works closely with U.S. Attorneys Offices through the
Project Safe Childhood initiative, discussed below.
In collaboration with the FBI and NCMEC, CEOS launched the Innocence Lost
National Initiative in 2003 to combat domestic child trafficking through multi-
disciplinary task forces in areas with the highest incidence of child prostitution.162
As of December 2006, the project opened 273 investigations and secured 135
convictions under state and federal law.
Project Safe Childhood (U.S. Attorney’s Office). Project Safe
Childhood (PSC) is an initiative that was created in March 2006 in response to the
growing number of prosecuted crimes against children via the Internet and the
production and distribution of more shocking, graphic images involving increasingly
160 The President’s Budget has reported that the FBI (as a whole) made the following
numbers of convictions and pre-trial diversions for child exploitation cases: 472 in FY2000;
540 in FY2001; 646 in FY2002; and 733 in FY2003. It also reported that the FBI assisted
in the recovery of the following numbers of missing children: 92 in FY2002; 91 in FY2001;
106 in FY2002; and 205 in FY2003. See Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the
United States Government. These statistics were not reported for FY2004 through FY2007.
161 U.S. Department of Justice, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), CEOS
Mission, available at [http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/mission.html].
162 U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, FY2008 Budget, p. 7. The document is
available at [http://www.usdoj.gov/jmd/2008justification/pdf/14_crm.pdf].
younger children and infants.163 The goals of the program are to investigate and
prosecute individuals who exploit children and to identify and rescue victims. The
initiative is led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and within each judicial district, an
attorney is appointed to serve as the PSC coordinator for the district. The coordinator
builds partnerships with stakeholders in the district including — regional or state
ICACs, federal law enforcement agencies with a local presence (the FBI, the U.S.
Postal Inspection Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals),
NCMEC, Internet safety programs, local law enforcement, and public and private
organizations, such as parent groups and school administrators.
Each U.S. Attorney’s Office must complete a strategic plan to implement the
PSC initiative in each district within 90 days after the PSC coordinator is designated.
The strategic plan should include background information to help frame the district’s
present capacity to address child exploitation issues, and to summarize the early
results of partnership-building efforts. The plan must address the ways in which the
district’s partners will coordinate and utilize their resources to fulfill the goals of the
initiative, and respond to leads from NCMEC, including the Child Victim
Identification program, FBI Innocent Images Unit, and CEOS.164 The plan must also
develop a mechanism to ensure that targets of a particular law enforcement agency
are known to the PSC partners in order to avoid duplication of efforts.
Finally, the PSC partnership is to coordinate local public awareness and
education campaigns in the community.165 This may be through identifying PSC
partners currently conducting awareness and outreach programs.
Innocent Images National Initiative (FBI). The Innocent Images National
Initiative (IINI), created in 1993, is coordinated through the FBI’s Cyber Crimes
Program. The IINI’s mission has four parts: to reduce the vulnerability of children
to acts of sexual exploitation and abuse which are facilitated through the use of
computers; to identify and rescue witting and unwitting child victims; to investigate
and prosecute sexual predators who use the Internet and other online services to
sexually exploit children for personal or financial gain; and to strengthen the
capabilities of federal, state, local, and international law enforcement through training
programs and investigative assistance.166 FBI agents conduct undercover operations
in the FBI’s field offices, in cooperation with ICAC Task Force and other federal
agencies, and abroad through the FBI Legal Attaché Program in collaboration with
foreign law enforcement. These agents investigate all areas of the Internet and
163 U.S. Department of Justice, Project Safe Childhood, May 2006, p. 10. The information
is available at [http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov/guide.htm]. See also 42 U.S.C.
164 Ibid, p. 25.
165 The FY2007 solicitation for Project Safe Childhood seeks community partners to
increase awareness about the program and to provide training and education around Internet
safety. The solicitation is available at [http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/grants/solicitations/FY
166 U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Innocent Images National
Initiative. The information is available at [http://www.fbi.gov/publications/innocent.htm].
online services, such as websites that post child pornography, online groups and
organizations, file services, and peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, among others.
FBI agents and task force officers go online undercover using fictitious screen names
and engage in real-time chat or e-mail conversations with subjects to obtain evidence
of criminal activity. Investigation of specific online locations can be initiated through
several pathways, including a referral from a law enforcement agency or a complaint
from an online service provider. A case management system enables the IINI to track
subjects and correlate transactions (of distributing or receiving child pornography
and/or making payments for child pornography) that do not readily appear to be
Crimes Against Children Unit (FBI). The Crimes Against Children Unit
(CACU) was established in 1997 within the Criminal Investigation Division’s
Violent Crime and Major Offenders Section and focuses on crimes against167
children. The CACU is staffed by supervisory special agents and support
professionals who address all crimes under the FBI’s jurisdiction that involve the
victimization of children, manage and provide oversight to field offices of
investigations of crimes against children, and coordinate training on crimes against
children throughout the law enforcement community. A supervisory special agent
with CACU is detailed full-time to the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children to coordinate the FBI’s response to child abductions, parental kidnapping,
child pornography, and other crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children.
Each FBI field office has at least two special agents designated as Crimes Against
Children Coordinators. These coordinators use all available FBI investigative and
other resources to investigate crimes against children and coordinate their
investigations with other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. Further, they
utilize CAC resource teams, which consist of law enforcement personnel, social
service providers, and other professionals, to investigate and prosecute incidents that
cross legal and geographical jurisdictional boundaries.
The FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC), located
at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, works to resolve child abductions and
murders. NCAVC provides operational assistance to FBI field offices and other law
enforcement agencies involved in violent crime investigations, applying expertise in
cases involving missing and exploited children. Upon being notified that a child has
been abducted, FBI field offices and the NCAVC coordinate an immediate response
that involves special agents joining other law enforcement to conduct a
comprehensive community investigation. Evidence Response Teams may also
conduct the forensic investigation of the abduction site and a Rapid Start Team may
immediately be deployed to coordinate and track investigate leads.
Sex Offender Control and Apprehension Initiative (Office of Justice
Programs). The Administration has proposed a Sex Offender Control and
Apprehension Initiative as part of its proposed Office of Justice Programs Child
167 This information was provided to the Congressional Research Service by the U.S.
Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation in April 2008.
Safety and Juvenile Justice discretionary grant program for FY2008.168 The initiative
is intended to meet some of the goals of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety
Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-248), which includes provisions related to preventing and
punishing sex offenders and those who victimize children.169 The initiative is
intended to assist state, local, and tribal governments conduct investigations and
fugitive apprehension efforts related to sex offenders; develop and enforce laws
related to sex offender registries; and control and hold sex offenders accountable
(through the use of electronic monitoring and civil commitment); and enhance the
ability of state and local law enforcement to control and investigate sex offenders
through training and assistance. (Note that the Office of Justice Programs
administers and funds the National Sex Offender Public Registry that requires sex
offenders to register information about their sex crimes and crimes against children,
pursuant to the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Act and Sexually Violent
Offender Registration Act, as amended by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and
Safety Act of 2006.)
Department of Homeland Security
Cyber Crime Center Child Exploitation Section (Immigration and
Customs Enforcement). The Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency
houses the Cyber Crime Center’s Child Exploitation Section (CES). The CES
investigates the transnational production and distribution of child exploitation images
and individuals who travel abroad for the purpose of engaging in sex with minors.
CES analysts and agents collect evidence and track the activities of individuals and
organized groups who exploit children through the use of websites, chat rooms,170
newsgroups, and peer-to-peer trading. The section also conducts clandestine
operations throughout the world to identify and apprehend abusers. CES has
coordinated federal efforts to apprehend individuals and organizations that victimize
children. Operation Predator is perhaps among the most well known project
designed to meet this goal. The project was created in July 2003 to identify,
investigate, arrest, and deport (in the case of foreign perpetrators) child sex predators.
To date, Operation Predator has resulted in the arrest of more than 9,500 individuals
throughout the United States.171
168 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, FY2008 Performance Budget,
p. 70; available at [http://www.usdoj.gov/jmd/2008justification/pdf/40_ojp.pdf].
169 For further information about the legislation, see CRS Report RL33967, Adam Walsh
Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006: A Legal Analysis, by Charles Doyle and CRS
Report RL32800, Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Law: Recent
Legislation and Issues, by Garrine P. Laney.
170 For further information about the Child Exploitation Center, see [http://www.ice.gov/
partners/investigations/servi ces/cyberbranch.htm] .
171 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
“Two Springfield Men Receive Significant Prison Sentences for Trading Child Porn,” press
release, March 6, 2007; available at [http://www.ice.gov/pi/news/newsreleases/articles/
Forensic Services (United States Secret Service). As discussed above,
Congress mandated that the United States Secret Service provide forensic and
technical assistance in matters involving missing and exploited children. Secret
Service forensic analysts assist NCMEC and federal, state, and local law enforcement
agencies with a number of services to identify and track individuals who sexually
exploit children. These services include identification of finger prints using the most
up-to-date chemical and physical methods; forensic automation to identify
fingerprints, handwriting, counterfeit identity documents, and financial documents
when other investigative leads have been exhausted; polygraph services; analysis of
and testimony regarding questioned documents; and forensic photography and other172
audio and image enhancements.
U.S. Postal Service
U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service
(USPIS) is the law enforcement, crime prevention, and security arm of the U.S.
Postal Service. Pursuant to federal law making it a crime to mail obscene matter and
transmit obscene material over the Internet — including child pornography — the
Postal Inspection Service is authorized to investigate such mailings and transmittals.
In FY2006, postal inspectors arrested 250 suspects and identified 58 child molestors
who mailed or received child pornography in the mail.173
The USPIS participates in the Deliver Me Home program that distributes
missing children flyers to targeted zip codes to alert communities and seek
information that may help locate a missing or exploited child. Deliver Me Home was
created in 1994 in partnership with NCMEC and the Postal Service.
Department of State
Office of Children’s Issues. The U.S. Department of State’s Office of
Children’s Issues was established in 1994 to assist parents whose children are the
victims of international parental child abduction.174 As the U.S. Central Authority
for the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
(“Hague Convention”), the Office of Children’s Issues helps parents file and pursue
applications for their child’s return or for access to their child, through the foreign
Central Authority, or where feasible, directly to a foreign court.175 (NCMEC serves
as the representative of the State Department on matters relating to the Hague
Convention.) State Department employees may also attempt to locate and visit the
172 For additional information about the U.S. Secret Service’s forensic services, see
[ h t t p : / / www.s e c r e t s e r vi c e . go v/ f o r e ns i c s . s h t ml ] .
173 U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, 2006 Annual Report of
Investigations, January 2007, pp. 36-37; available at [http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/
174 For additional information about the Office of Children’s Issues, see [http://travel.state.
gov/ family/abduction/abduction_580.html ].
175 The Hague Convention calls on Central Authorities to facilitate parental access, but does
not provide for specific procedures or remedies.
abducted child and monitor judicial proceedings overseas. The State Department
works with the Justice Department and Interpol through the Interagency Working
Group to coordinate strategies for resolving cases of abduction and wrongful
retention. The group convenes each month to discuss initiatives and to facilitate
communications between agencies.
Internal Revenue Service. The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Picture
Them Home program publicizes photographs of missing children in agency
instructions and publications. From January 2001 through July 2006, the IRS176
publicized approximately 2,500 pictures of missing children. NCMEC has
received 587 leads related to 289 children whose photographs have appeared in IRS
instructions and publications.
176 U.S. Department of Treasury, Inspector General for Tax Administration, “The Internal
Revenue Service Provides Valuable Assistance in Locating Missing Children,” Press
Release, February 20, 2007; available at [http://www.treas.gov/tigta/auditreports/2007
Appendix F: CRS Reports on Missing and
Exploited Children and Related Topics
CRS Report RS21453, AMBER Alert Program Technology, by Linda K. Moore.
CRS Report RL32800, Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Law:
Recent Legislation and Issues, by Garrine P. Laney.
CRS Report 98-67, Internet: An Overview of Key Technology Policy Issues Affecting
Its Growth and Usage, coordinated by Lennard G. Kruger, John D. Moteff,
Angele A. Gilroy, Jeffrey W. Seifert, Patricia Moloney Figliola, and Rita Tehan.
CRS Report 98-670, Obscenity, Child Pornography, and Indecency: Recent
Developments and Pending Issues, by Henry Cohen.
CRS Report RL33967, Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006: A
Legal Analysis, by Charles Doyle.
CRS Report RL34068, Civil Commitment of Sexually Dangerous Persons, by Nathan
James, Kenneth R. Thomas, and Cassandra Foley.
CRS Report RL33785, Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics, Programs,
and Emerging Issues, by Adrienne L. Fernandes.
CRS Report RL34483, Runaway and Homeless Youth: Reauthorization Legislationth
and Issues in the 110 Congress, by Adrienne L. Fernandes.
CRS Report RL34317, Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress,
by Clare Ribando Seelke and Alison Siskin.
CRS Report RL33896, Unaccompanied Alien Children: Policies and Issues, by Chad