Missing from Care
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In recent years, greater attention has focused on the issue of children who go missing from state care. Historically, many of these children were not being reported missing. However, there are no waiting periods to report a child missing, regardless of the situation.

To correct this problem, federal legislation enacted in 2014 requires that state agencies must report a missing or abducted child to both law enforcement and NCMEC within 24 hours of receiving information about a missing child under their care.

Risk Factors

The risk factors for running away from home or state care are multifaceted, and there is no typical Endangered Runaway. However, research suggests that there are some factors that may increase the likelihood that a child runs away, and describe the endangerments a child faces when they run away.

  • Multiple Placements: While youth in their first state placement are not likely to run (especially younger children), the greater the number of placements, the greater the likelihood of running away.
  • Family Attachment and Separation: Children in care may run away from their placements to reconnect or reunite with their non-custodial family.
  • Gender-Related Experiences: Research suggests that girls are disproportionately more likely to run away from home or state care, as well as run away at an earlier age compared to boys. This difference between the genders may be explained by factors that are disproportionately experienced and/or reported by girls such as sexual abuse and family instability.1, 2
  • Involvement in gangs or child sex trafficking: In 2016, 11% of endangered runaways reported to NCMEC were believed to be involved in gangs, with an additional 18% of children likely victims of child sex trafficking.


1 Thrane, L.E., Hoyt, D.R., Whitbeck, L.B., & Yoder, K.A. (2006). Impact of family abuse on running away, deviance, and street victimization among homeless rural and urban youth. Child abuse & neglect30(10), 1117-1128.

2 Tyler, K.A., Hagewen, K.J., & Melander, L.A. (2011). Risk factors for running away among a general population sample of males and females. Youth & Society43(2), 583-608.

By the Numbers

Reports of Children Missing from Care have increased each year since legislation was enacted.

In 2015, we received ~7,900 reports.

In 2017, we received over 18,000.

of the children who ran from the care of social services and were reported missing to NCMEC in 2019, were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

What NCMEC is Doing About it

Assisting Social Services in Reporting and Returning Missing Children to Safe Places

NCMEC accepts reports from across the country and has partnered with social service agencies in several states and local jurisdictions to assist in ensuring proper reporting of children who go missing from care as well as the efforts to locate and return those children to safety. If you are a social worker seeking further information, or to report a child missing from care, please visit CMFC.Missingkids.org.

Raising Public Awareness to Help Bring Them Home

Our dedicated case managers can coordinate the creation and dissemination of missing child posters to help generate leads and assist in forwarding information to the appropriate investigating agencies. NCMEC’s media relations team also works with traditional and social media outlets to target specific geographical areas and raise public awareness about the missing child. 

The public can also help in the recovery efforts by signing up in The ADAM Program to receive missing child alerts in their area.