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Helpful Information: Making a NCMEC Report

NCMEC Call Center

The section What To Do: If a Child in Care Goes Missing lists the reporting requirements and mechanisms to report a missing child to NCMEC. Regardless of the method utilized to make a report with NCMEC, be prepared to provide detailed descriptive information about the child as well as information about the circumstances surrounding the missing event when contacting NCMEC. 


NCMEC takes care to protect and maintain the privacy of information regarding missing children, and consults with the parent/guardian and investigating law enforcement agency before disseminating identifying information publicly. Additionally, NCMEC does not generally make any public reference to the fact that a child is missing from foster care,  was in state custody at the time they went missing, or that they are likely the victim of child sex trafficking.  Additionally, NCMEC does not generally share any medical or other sensitive information about the child. Finally, any analytical support that NCMEC generates will only be shared with law enforcement for the purpose of locating the missing child.

Helpful Information for a NCMEC Report for Runaway Incidents

NCMEC requests comprehensive information regarding the child in order to be able to effectively assist in locating the child. Details about the child and circumstances regarding each missing event, including specific recovery information from a previous missing event, is therefore essential.  It is important to gather and provide this information, so it may be helpful to have everything collected in one place before making the reports to law enforcement and NCMEC.

Making the report

Whether a report is made via NCMEC’s Call Center, web-based reporting system, or system-to-system communication method as described in the previous section, information regarding the reporting party, including full name, agency name and agency case number is helpful.  Additionally, be prepared to provide the investigating law enforcement agency’s contact information, case number and assigned law enforcement officer.  If you, as the reporting party, are not the legal guardian, please provide the legal guardian’s full name (most often the social worker assigned to the child), their agency name, and current contact information to include all telephone numbers and an email address.

If you are a social services agency representative reporting a child missing from state or county care, and you wish NCMEC to produce a missing poster to help recover the missing child, you may submit photographs of the child. By submitting photographs of the missing child, you acknowledge that the photographs are of the missing child and NCMEC is permitted to publish and distribute the photographs and related information of the missing child by any format used by NCMEC (print, video, on-line, etc.) to help recover the missing child. You also understand that NCMEC may use the photographs for image enhancement and age-progression, when appropriate, and you will provide NCMEC with updated or corrected information about the missing child’s appearance if it becomes available.

Descriptive information

Basic biographic information about the child, full name and date of birth, should be given.  Descriptive information provided should include items and information such as a recent, clear, color photo of the child; video of the child; a description of the clothing worn at the time the child was last seen; cell and other phone numbers; aliases or nicknames; hair and eye color; height; weight; complexion; identifiers such as eyeglasses or contact lenses; braces; body piercings; tattoos; and/or other unique physical capabilities.

Risks, companions and abductors

Please relay any information about particular risks the child might face due to medical or mental conditions; gang activity; past suicidal attempts; online enticement; commercial/sexual exploitation; and/or any other endangerments. The date, time and location where the child was last seen should be reported, as well as the names or descriptions of companions or associates last seen with the child.  Provide any detailed information about the description and characteristics of the abductor if he or she is known to you.  Other information such as a photograph, driver’s license number, cell and other phone numbers, and any other available information useful for tracking purposes if known, is also helpful.  Also try to provide any chat and social-networking websites the child has visited.


Missing-Child Emergency-Response, Quick Reference Guide for Families

If a Child Runs Away On More Than One Occasion

Sometimes, a child will run away from social services care more than once. It may even occur shortly after the child was safely located and recovered from the previous runaway incident.  Each time the child goes missing, a report must be made with law enforcement and the child entered into NCIC for that specific run.  Once the report has been made to law enforcement and the child entered into NCIC, a report with NCMEC must then be made.  

The Long-Term Missing Child and Biometric Data

The majority of missing children are located safely and quickly. However, sometimes a child may go missing for a long period of time, with little or no information as to their whereabouts. In long term missing child cases, the availability of additional forensic service makes it important to be prepared to obtain medical, dental and fingerprint records for the child to provide to law enforcement.  It can also be helpful to identify and locate biological family members for DNA samples to be collected by law enforcement, should it become necessary.  In long-term missing child cases NCMEC can assist through the Forensic Services Unit, Project ALERT®, Biometrics Team and Forensic Imaging Team. 

See a full listing of NCMEC services in long-term cases.

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