Nearly 800,000 children are reported missing in the United States each year. Some juveniles go missing on their own, as runaways. Some children are lost for hours or days. More than 58,000 children are abducted every year.
More than 98 percent of the 58,000 child abductions that occur in the United States each year have happy endings -- the abducted child is safely reunited with the family. Most abducted children were taken by a non-custodial parent, but more than 100 children are kidnapped every year by a stranger.
In the western state of Idaho, two young children have been missing for more than a week. Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson talks about what is being done, "Our main concern right now is the two children we cannot find. We've got search dogs and search and rescue working the immediate area. All surrounding law enforcement agencies are notified."
Sheriff Watson believes the children witnessed a triple homicide in their home before they were taken. A nationwide warning called an "AMBER alert" has gone out to look for nine-year-old Dillon and eight-year-old Shasta Groene.
Tracy Henke is the National AMBER Alert Coordinator at the U.S. Department of Justice. "We have now created a notification system throughout the United States that notifies communities, notifies states, notifies law enforcement, anybody who is watching the television, listening to the airwaves, that a child has gone missing. It puts individuals throughout the community on alert to look for the information that police, law enforcement officials have on the individual who potentially abducted the individual."
Ms. Henke says finding children with in the first three hours after abduction is critical. "Often the opportunity to rescue the child and potentially to rescue the child alive diminishes the longer period, the longer the time lapses."
Ernie Allen, with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says the best way to find children is to put more eyes to work. "Millions of Americans are on the streets of American cities and are the best possible candidates to see something, to know something have information at that key time."
AMBER alerts now reach more than 180,000 wireless subscribers who receive text messages when a child is abducted anywhere in the nation.
AMBER alerts have been used to save the lives of more than 200 children. The Department of Justice says alerts, text messages, billboards, posters and the Internet are effective tools in helping to find abducted or missing children in America.
But the best method to prevent abductions from happening is for parents to be engaged in their child's life -- to know where their children spend their time, who their friends are and the activities they participate in -- information and education, according to the Department of Justice, equals prevention.
That education campaign includes National Missing Children's Day, observed May 25th, to remind Americans to make child protection a national priority.