Missing Children's Day

It’s not exactly an event to celebrate, but the 25th May was International Missing Children’s Day. The numbers regarding missing children are so enormous and so shocking that it’s hard to fathom why there is so little coverage of the issue beyond the few headline grabbing cases which make the news each year. Hollywood portrayals of kidnappings and high-profile cases such as Madeleine McCann and the Chibok schoolgirls could lead you to believe there is an epidemic in child abductions worldwide, but the word ‘missing’ is a catch-all term covering all manner of disappearances.

Worldwide, an estimated eight million children go missing annually.  An average 800,000 children per year go missing in the United States alone, or roughly 2,160 a day.  In Canada more than 50,000 go missing, alongside 230,000 in the United Kingdom and 40,000 in Brazil.  In Mexico the number is 45,000 and in Germany it’s 100,000.

The definition of ‘missing’ can be a bit vague, covering everything from a child running away of their own free will to kidnapping, trafficking and children simply getting lost when out and about. When it comes to child abduction, you may be surprised to know that strangers do not pose the biggest threat. In almost half (49%) of all cases of kidnapping, a family member is responsible:

Fathers make up 44% of abductions, with mothers making up a further 26%. Of those that are kidnapped by strangers, almost three quarters (74%) are girls under the age of 18.

In the US, where the largest number of children go missing every year, the vast majority of AMBER alerts (issued when a child is reported missing) were for white children. In 2015, 46% of children who were abducted were white, followed by 23% black children.

Texas is the state which issues the highest number of AMBER alerts, with 10% of all the USA’s missing child warnings in 2015.

For any parent who has ever lost sight of their child in a supermarket or busy park, the dread of becoming part of these statistics is enough to keep you awake at night.  Having delved into these sobering statistics, however, it’s good to have a happy ending.  Of the 800,000 missing children in the US last year, only about 100 were taken by strangers.  Worldwide, of all the children who go missing for whatever reason, some 99.8% are returned to their families safe and well – so you can sleep a little easier for knowing that.