In 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25th “National Missing Children’s Day.”

The proclamation followed the 1979 disappearance of a six-year-old boy, Etan Patz, on his way to school in New York City. The case generated widespread indignation, and concern for missing children rose across the nation. Since the United States began remembering missing children in this way, other countries around the world have adopted similar commemorations.

International Missing Children’s Day is an awareness event that is observed every year on 25th May. The aims of the day are to place a spotlight on the issue of child abduction, educate parents on safeguarding measures to protect their children and also honour those who have never been found and celebrate those who have.

Missing Children’s Day began as an observance in the USA in 1983. The date was chosen following the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz on 25th May 1979 from New York City. International Missing Children’s Day which observes the same date was launched a number of years later in 2001 and is now observed all over the world.

Over the past six years, the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) has brought together more than 20 countries from around the world to commemorate International Missing Children’s Day on May 25. Through unified national events, countries bring global attention to missing children – those who have been found as well as those who have not yet been recovered.
Every day, all around the world, children go missing.

They may be runaways or missing for unknown reasons, victims of family or non-family abductions, or they may simply be lost or missing with a “benign” explanation. While the majority of children who are reported missing return on their own after a short period of time, the longer a child is missing, the more vulnerable he or she becomes. Regardless of the circumstances, children who go missing are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, forced employment, physical and emotional violence as well as criminal activity.

In the United Kingdom, on average 8% of runaway children experience some form of sexual assault while missing.[1] In the United States, it is estimated that 1 in 6 runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children will end up a victim of child sex trafficking.[2] The longer a child is missing, the higher the risk he or she faces.

“We, as responsible adults, should be aware of the issues that put children at risk and do all we can to help keep them as safe as possible,” says Ambassador Maura Harty (ret.), President and CEO of ICMEC. “We all need to be champions working together to protect each and every child. One child harmed is one child too many.”

The observance of May 25 as Missing Children’s Day began in the United States in 1983. 25 May marks the anniversary of when six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York street corner on his way to school on 25 May 1979. Etan’s story received national coverage as his father, a photographer, circulated black and white pictures of his missing son to media outlets. Etan’s father’s efforts to inform the public led to recognition of the need for new initiatives and a commitment to reunite missing children with their families.

In 2001, May 25 was first observed as IMCD through the efforts of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), Missing Children Europe, and the European Commission. 25 May is now being commemorated across the world by many different cultures and organisations in the hope children will find their way home.

In Australia approximately 25,000 young people are reported missing to police each year. Most children who are reported missing are found safe and well within 24 hours, but for those who are not, what follows can be months and years of heartbreak and confusion for their families.

Around the world, it is estimated that over one million young people are reported missing every year. To highlight this number the AFP’s NMPCC has contributed to an international creative campaign designed to highlight the prevalence of missing children on a global scale. The campaign, going live on the 25 May 2019, will feature emotive messaging highlighting the lost dreams and unrealised milestones of a child’s future.

As individuals, professionals and organisations, we have a responsibility to protect our children. Together we can help bring them home.