The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was established after several high-profile child abductions and murders made it clear there was a need for coordinated responses when children went missing. It was established in 1984 and officially opened by President Ronald Reagan. NCMEC is best known as the people who put missing children’s pictures on milk cartons and in mailings to millions of homes. But it does much more than sending out pictures of missing children.
NCMEC’s Web site lists its mission to “help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them.” The organization achieves this mission in a number of ways. First and foremost NCMEC acts as an international clearinghouse of information and a first stop for parents, family members, and professionals worried about or looking for missing children. There are a multitude of published educational and training materials available online for parents and guardians, law enforcement officers, childcare providers, attorneys, and the media. They provide training and technical assistance nationally on this topic and operate the CyberTipline that allows, according to the Web site, the reporting of child sexual exploitation “including child pornography, online enticement of children for sex acts, molestation of children outside the family, sex tourism of children, child victims of prostitution, and unsolicited obscene material sent to a child,” using both online and tollfree telephone reporting systems. NCMEC also takes part in the national AMBER Alert system by helping rapidly validate and distribute alerts about missing or abducted children through a variety of law enforcement outlets.
NCMEC also houses an international division that, among other tasks, assists the U.S. State Department with children being abducted into the United States from other countries. In 2006 alone, NCMEC’s international division was working on 1,850 international abduction cases.
As the Internet has expanded its reach to more and more children, NCMEC has become more involved in helping to protect children from becoming victims of crimes by predators initially ing children online. As this aspect of their program has evolved, they have created a separate NetSmartz Workshop. NetSmartz’s Web site states that it is “an interactive, educational safety resource from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) for children aged 5 to 17, parents, guardians, educators, and law enforcement that uses age-appropriate, 3-D activities to teach children how to stay safer on the Internet.”
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