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Overview

We understand that cases of missing and sexually exploited children often raise difficult and complex issues. NCMEC’s Office of Legal Counsel is ready to help by providing valuable resources and assistance for legislators, attorneys, families, law enforcement, and the internet industry, including case specific legal, educational, technical and related research and analysis, as well as publications, amicus briefs, and other trial related materials.

Resources

Legal Training

We offer legal trainings relating to NCMEC’s mission, including an overview of NCMEC resources, the unique legal challenges related to child sexual exploitation cases, preventing and responding to family abductions, and international missing child cases arising under treaties such as the Hague Child Abduction Convention.

Legal Guides and Manuals

We provide legal resource information for families and professionals in published materials, including:

Litigating International Child Abduction Cases Under the Hague Convention

(legal manual for attorneys)

Family Abduction: Prevention & Response

(guide for families and professionals with practical guidance and extensive legal information)

Missing Children, State Care, and Child Sex Trafficking: Engaging the Judiciary in Building a Collaborative Response

(a technical assistance guide for judges and stakeholders in the court system)

Legislative Affairs

We provide technical assistance and policy recommendations to members of Congress, state legislators, and government entities about issues related to missing and exploited children. This work includes providing testimony to the U.S. Congress and input on child protection issues and responding to media inquiries about proposed laws regarding child protection issues.

The Law

State Abduction Laws

Family abduction is recognized as a crime in every state, although individual state criminal laws vary widely. For a comprehensive summary of state criminal custodial interference laws, refer to a compilation of "Parental Kidnapping Statutes" located on the website of the National District Attorneys Association. 

  • The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) has now been adopted as state law in nearly every state and territory in the U.S. The UCCJEA provides clearer standards for the exercise of jurisdiction over child custody cases among the states and provides a specific, effective mechanism for enforcement of out-of-state custody orders, including custody orders from another country.
  • The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA) was introduced in 2006 to help courts identify children at risk of domestic and international abduction and provide numerous prevention measures a court can incorporate into a custody order.
  • The Fugitive Felon Act (18 U.S.C. § 1073) authorizes federal authorities to assist with the apprehension of state law fugitives, including those charged with parental kidnapping, through the issuance of a federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP) warrant.

International Abduction Laws

The US is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention, an international treaty that establishes a civil mechanism to ensure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained outside of the US. 

  • The federal International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA) (42 U.S.C. §§ 11601-11610) implements the Hague Convention and authorizes state and federal courts to hear cases under this treaty when a child has been unlawfully brought into or retained in the United States.
  • The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act ("IPKCA") (18 U.S.C. § 1204 ) makes it a crime to remove or attempt to remove a child younger than 16 years old from the U.S. or to retain a child who is in the U.S., with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights. Congress has clarified, through the Extradition Treaties Interpretation Act of 1998, that U.S. authorities shall interpret the term "kidnapping" to include parental kidnapping in any criminal extradition treaty to which the United States is a party

Federal and State Exploitation Laws

Federal law criminalizes the sexual exploitation of children. The range of prohibited conduct is enumerated in several different statutes, summarized here by the US Department of Justice, while The National District Attorneys Association's National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse has compiled relevant state statutes in a number of different issue areas including kidnapping, mandated reporting, child pornography, sex offender registration, self-exploitation/sexting and trafficking.

Survivor & Family Support

For All Survivors & Families

If you or someone else are in immediate crisis, please call 911 or your local police.
If you want to report a potential suicide threat, please visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Emotional Support & Referrals

NCMEC’s masters-level trained advocates are available to survivors, families, foster families, caregivers, and others by phone or email to assist in finding the right community-based resources to assist with healing. You are encouraged to email gethelp@ncmec.org to see if we can support you and/or your family. 

Team HOPE is a network of volunteers who have personally experienced the trauma of having or being a missing or exploited child. With this firsthand knowledge of the multitude of emotions people experience, these volunteers provide peer support to adult family members of missing or exploited children, as well as adults who were missing or exploited as children. 

Help Locating Legal Aid

NCMEC helps families who are navigating the legal system. NCMEC’s Office of Legal Counsel provides legal technical assistance to parents, guardians, survivors and families. We offer resources, help describe available legal remedies for resolving cases and answer important questions for families about the criminal and civil court process.

If your child was abducted across borders or has been impacted by child sexual exploitation, NCMEC may be able to provide referrals to an experienced attorney (including pro bono or reduced-fee referrals) who can help with the legal issues relating to the situation. In some cases, survivors of child sexual abuse material, child sex trafficking or related exploitation are entitled to financial compensation and working with an experienced attorney is critical to exercising your rights.

Please email gethelp@ncmec.org for information about attorney referrals for families and survivors impacted by a missing child or dealing with child sexual exploitation.

For Those With a Missing Child

Missing Child Case Management

When a child goes missing, NCMEC case managers play a vital role in collecting leads, adding value to tips, and coordinating information for the involved parties (families, law enforcement, etc). If you are a parent or legal guardian who has already reported your missing child to local law enforcement and would like a NCMEC case manager involved with your child's missing case, please call 1-800-THE-LOST.

Reunification Assistance

NCMEC is available to help families prepare for their child’s needs when children initially reunite with their families days or months later. Families in financial need may qualify for transportation at low or no cost to them once their children are recovered.

Please email gethelp@ncmec.org to see if we are able to assist your family in reunification.

For Those Overcoming Exploitation

Reporting Sexual Exploitation

If you want to make a report of child sexual exploitation, you can use NCMEC’s CyberTipline. Specially trained analysts will process that report and make it available to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
 

Removing Sexual Images of a Child Online

Requests to remove explicit content can be made by individuals directly to hosting platforms and websites. Full instructions on how to do this are regularly updated at MissingKids.org/TakeitDown. You can also report explicit images of a child online to the CyberTipline.

Those making a report to NCMEC's CyberTipline have the option to work 1:1 with a CyberTipline team member to work through removing the image and finding additional support. If you would like to work with a team member to remove an image, please email gethelp@ncmec.org .

Resource Documents

Coping with Child Sexual Abuse Material Exposure
Resources for Child Sexual Exploitation Survivors & Their Families
Reconnecting with Your Child
Resources for Empowering Families
You Are Not Alone: Support for Child Sexual Abuse Material Survivors & Their Families
Child Sex Trafficking in Amerca: A Guide for Parents & Guardians
When Your Child is Missing...
You are Not Alone: The Journey from Abduction to Empowerment