Critically Missing Children
A critically missing child is one who is at an elevated risk of danger if not located as soon as possible due to the circumstances surrounding the child's disappearance. A child's age or mental/physical condition can be factors in determining whether a child is deemed to be critically missing.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® intakes reports regarding critically missing children and case management teams provide support to law enforcement and families to help bring missing children home. NCMEC intakes reports of children ages 18, 19 and 20 at the request of law enforcement pursuant to Suzanne's Law, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 5779(a).
Law enforcement must act quickly and devote as many resources as possible when a child is reported missing. Case management teams at NCMEC work to maximize all available operational, analytical and technological resources including Team Adam and the U.S. Department of Justice's AMBER Alert Program.
First responding officers need to consider all possible scenarios in which the child may be missing. This could include abduction, injury or the child is simply running late coming home. Law enforcement's response needs to be driven by an assessment of risk factors or endangerments to the child. Each critically missing child is unique so a general risk assessment for the missing child should include a review of situational, environmental, behavioral and psychological factors and considerations.
To report a child missing or if you believe you have seen a missing child, call NCMEC toll-free 24 hours a day at
The PROTECT Act of 2003 contains a provision recognizing the U.S. Congress' concern for the safety of missing young adults — ages 18, 19 and 20 — especially those missing in a circumstance outside their normal pattern of behavior.
The provision, known as Suzanne's Law, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 5779(a), extends the same reporting and investigative procedures already provided to children younger than 18 to individuals under the age of 21. Law enforcement is required to enter the report of missing young adults covered by Suzanne's Law into the FBI's National Crime Information Center database without delay and subsequently conduct an investigation.
Additionally this law lets NCMEC open cases regarding missing young adults at the request of law enforcement.
For more information about Suzanne's Law contact NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678).
On Jan. 29, 2003, NCMEC launched Team Adam, a quick response team of consultants deployed in critical cases. Consultants provide rapid on-site technical assistance to law enforcement agencies investigating cases of missing, abducted and sexually exploited children.
Team Adam consultants are retired law enforcement officers specially selected for their training, knowledge, and prior investigative case experience including missing or abducted children, command post operations, search and rescue operations, and multijurisdictional case management.
AMBER Alert Program
The AMBER Alert Program is a voluntary partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, and the wireless industry to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. The goal of AMBER Alert is to instantly create public awareness to assist in the search of a missing child. Law enforcement uses the eyes and ears of the public to help quickly locate an abducted child by broadcasting AMBER Alerts on radio, television, road signs and all available technology outlets in the most serious child abduction cases. As of April 2, 2014 AMBER Alerts have helped rescue and safely return more than 688 children.