30 Years of Hope

Over the last several years I have had the pleasure to learn about dozens of local businesses. From retail to real estate, ice cream to Halloween, I’ve seen and you’ve read about the small and large businesses, all contributing to the heart of Alexandria and its neighboring communities. This month I am excited to not only shed light on the amazing work this business does, but to also spread awareness and knowledge, and recognize the dedicated people who make it their mission to help others in need.

In celebration of their 30th anniversary and the many successes they have achieved, we are featuring the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC opened its doors in 1984 to serve as the nation’s greatest resource for issues related to missing and exploited children. They have changed the way that our country and law enforcement address and act on these difficult cases, and provide support to victims, their families, and friends.

There are many cases that come to mind when you hear about this organization, and we have all seen the news and prayed for the families who face this terrifying situation. To say that NCMEC has changed the way we respond to missing or abused children would be an understatement. Thirty years ago, police could enter information about stolen cars, stolen guns, and even stolen horses into the FBI’s crime database, but not stolen children.

Several tragic cases brought awareness to the nation, and shed light on the lack of coordination or national response system when addressing missing children cases. In 1979, 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished from a New York street on his way to school. Over the next several years, 29 children and young adults were found murdered in Atlanta. Perhaps the most recognized case was in 1981, when 6-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a Florida shopping mall and later found brutally murdered.

While these stories are difficult to revisit, the history is what makes this organization and the work that they do so impactful. When Adam Walsh first disappeared, his parents, John and Revé, turned to law enforcement to help locate their son. To their disbelief, there was no coordinated effort on a state or national level to carry out a search. In response to their tragedy, the Walsh’s established the Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children, created to serve as a national resource for other families with who face these tragic circumstances. As the national awareness grew, Congress enacted the Missing Children’s Act in 1982 enabling the entry of missing child information into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database (NCIC). Former President Ronald Reagan officially opened the NCMEC in 1984, and in 1990 the Adam Walsh Outreach Center joined forces.

Thirty years later, NCMEC has provided services and technical assistance to child victims of abduction and sexual exploitation. They provide the most comprehensive resources regarding missing children, child safety and prevention, law enforcement training, and victim and family support. Today NCMEC is authorized by Congress to perform 22 programs and services to assist and each case brings its own set of unique challenges, which NCMEC is prepared to help conquer 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Some of the programs NCMEC operates include the CyberTipline (the 911 of the Internet), Child Victim Identification Program, Sex Offender Tracking Team, and Child Sex Trafficking Team. Additionally, NCMEC offers support services to victims and families coping with these traumatic experiences. Services are administered by master-level trained mental health and child welfare professionals.

The work that is done by this organization has yielded significant results which cannot be ignored. With an increased level of public awareness, laws, and technology, the recovery rate of missing children has climbed from 62 percent in 1990 to more than 97 percent in 2014! President and CEO, John Ryan shared at their anniversary event, “in the last 30 years, we’ve played a role in the recovery of more than 193,000 missing children, and we’re never going to give up hope for the families still waiting to be reunited with their children.”

As a nation, we have even seen more recoveries from abduction cases, such as Elizabeth Smart of Utah after nine months; Shawn Hornbeck of Missouri after four years; Jaycee Dugard of California after 18 years; Carlina White of New York after 23 years; and Marx Barnes of Hawaii after 34 years. Since its inception in 1998, the CyberTipline has processed over 2.3 million reports concerning crimes against children.

I am honored to help shed light on the great work being done right here in our own backyard, and I urge you all to help celebrate the achievements of NCMEC. Every May 25th, the anniversary of Etan Patz’s disappearance, the nation observes Missing Children’s Day. For more than three decades the search for Etan has continued, as NCMEC never forgets a child, no matter how long they have been missing. National Missing Children’s Day honors this commitment to help locate and recover missing children by reminding parents, guardians, families and communities that every child deserves a safe environment and childhood.  Please help me in supporting this great cause and the effort made all day, every day to ensure a safer world for our next generation.

Learn more about how you can help and contribute to NCMEC, by visiting http://www.missingkids.com/home, signing up for RSS feeds, and following them on Twitter and Facebook.

Written by: Elizabeth Jones

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