The image is haunting: a small, cold, tired child walking alone along a road amid a brutal war. The trauma and fear clearly reflected in his young face as he seeks the warmth and security of home.
We know that the home he left will never be the same –neither will he.
His is the face of every child who is missing: frightened, in pain, and defenseless. He is missing from his family. He is missing from his home. He is missing from whatever safety net he had before he was forced to flee.
For him, like all missing children, we know far too little about what harm he has experienced, or what future dangers await him. What we do know is that all missing children are vulnerable to being harmed in a myriad of ways.
- They may be assumed to be orphaned and adopted without their families’ knowledge.
- They may fall victim to traffickers and suffer long-term exploitation.
- They may spend the remaining years of their childhood living on the street.
For the millions of children who are missing around the world, we need to do more to understand the vulnerability to harm and exploitation that every one of them experiences.
We cannot assume that only certain types of missing children come to harm. Nor can we assume that only certain types of exploitation have a long-term impact on a child. We need to move towards a trauma-informed, child-centered response to missing child cases.
To do this, we need to understand the potential harm facing missing children around the globe, highlight best practices in reintegration planning for children who have been recovered from having gone missing, and collaborate on innovative ways to improve outcomes for every child.
As a leader in the prevention, recovery, and reintegration of missing children, ICMEC will be launching a global survey on May 25th, International Missing Children’s Day to understand the risk of harm that every missing child potentially faces.
This day is central to the commemoration of children who have gone missing, including those who have been found. It was formally recognized in 2001 through a joint effort by the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), Missing Children Europe, and the European Commission.
This year the launch of this research project will be one major step toward understanding the importance of creating and sharing best practices to protect missing children around the world.
Your gift today will fund research into the number of missing children as well as training and technology to find and return these vulnerable children to safety.
Thank you for helping us find these children and bring them to safety.
Felicity Sackville Northcott, Director, Global Missing Children’s Issues, International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children