The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a private, nonprofit organization established in 1984 by the United States Congress. In September 2013, the United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, and the President of the United States reauthorized the allocation of $40 million in funding for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children as part of the Missing Children’s Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2013. The current chair of the organization is Jon Grosso of Kohls. NCMEC handles cases of missing or exploited children from infancy to young adulthood through age 20.
Founding and early years
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was founded in 1984, spurred by notable child abductions such as the 1981 abduction and murder of six-year-old Adam Walsh from a shopping mall in Hollywood, Florida, and the 1979 abduction of six-year-old Etan Patz from New York City. Because police had the ability to record and track information about stolen cars, stolen guns, and even stolen horses with the FBI’s national crime computer, it was believed that the same should be done to find child victims and the procurers who exploited them.
In 1984, the U.S. Congress passed the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, which established a National Resource Center and Clearinghouse on Missing & Exploited Children. On June 13, 1984, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, formed by Adam Walsh’s parents, Revé and John Walsh, alongside other children’s advocates, was officially opened by President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. The national 24-hour toll-free missing children’s hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST, was also established.
Primarily funded by the United States Department of Justice, the NCMEC acts as an information clearinghouse and resource for parents, children, law enforcement agencies, schools, and communities to assist in locating missing children and to raise public awareness about ways to prevent child abduction, child loveual abuse and child pornography. John Walsh, Noreen Gosch, and others advocated establishing the centre as a result of frustration stemming from a lack of resources and national coordination between law enforcement and other government agencies.
The Center provides information to help locate children reported missing (by parental abduction, child abduction, or running away from home) and to assist physically and loveually abused children. In this resource capacity, the NCMEC distributes photographs of missing children and accepts tips and information from the public. It also coordinates these activities with numerous state and federal law enforcement agencies.
During the mid to late 1980s, the toy Teddy Ruxpin became the “Official Spokesbear” for the centre at the height of his popularity. Due to this partnership, some stories featured extra information for kids to stay safe from abductions, loveual predators, etc. This also caused his animated series to feature a clip titled “Protect Yourself” in which safety information for kids would be given by then-popular child actors.
In September 2013, the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and the President of the United States voted to reauthorize $40 million in funding for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children as part of the Missing Children’s Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2013 (H.R. 3092; 113th Congress).
The Center not only specializes in locating missing children but identifying the deceased. There are a number of unidentified decedents in the country, some of which are children, teenagers and young adults. Like missing children, posters are created for the cases and, if possible, show forensic facial reconstructions of the subject that show an estimation of their appearance while alive. The reconstructions that the NCMEC creates have been regarded to be state-of-the-art and have been stated to have been mistaken for photographs.
On April 6, 2018, it was announced in Forbes magazine that the Department of Justice had seized and shut down the website of the frequent nemesis of NCMEC, Backpage.com, on the grounds that it had frequently facilitated human trafficking. NCMEC released a statement: “The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children just learned that Backpage.com was seized by the FBI, IRS, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service with analytical assistance from the Joint Regional Intelligence Center. This is another step in the years-long fight against the exploitation of child victims who were bought and sold for love on Backpage.com. #NCMEC is waiting alongside the rest of the world to see what will come next. We stand by the victims and their families as they process this news and continue to fight for justice against those who profited from their abuse.