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Long-Term Missing

A man working on a missing person's poster on a tablet


Long-term missing children cases are those in which all viable leads have been thoroughly investigated, but the child has not been recovered.  Just because a case remains unsolved for many years does not make it less important to the families, law enforcement, or NCMEC. Our team also provides support for unidentified remains of children.

Risk Factors

Most children reported missing to NCMEC are recovered safely after a relatively brief period of time. However, Family Abduction cases have the longest average time missing, with an average time of 326 days, versus cases of runaways which average the shortest time missing at 61 days.

By the Numbers

In a recent analysis of cases reported to NCMEC between 2014 and 2016.1

of cases involved children who ran away or were abducted by a family member.

children were recovered after being missing 6 months or longer.

children were recovered after having been missing for a decade or longer.

What NCMEC is Doing About it

Helping Resolve Cases of Missing Children

  • Age progressions: For children missing two years or more, our team of forensic artists age progress their faces to show what they might look like today and increase the likelihood of someone recognizing them.
  • Team Adam: A team of over 130 retired former local, state, and federal law enforcement officers who donate their time and experience to assist law enforcement agencies with long-term missing children cases.
  • Comprehensive case reviews: We bring together over two days the agency responsible for the case, investigators representing federal, state and local law enforcement and relevant subject-matter experts to provide recommendations for continuing the investigation and search.
  • Anniversaries: We help publicize through traditional and social media the anniversaries of a child’s disappearance to keep the case prominent.
  • HelpID Me: One way that the Forensic Services Unit helps enlist the public’s assistance in identifying unknown deceased children. Facial and skull reconstructions and other information are shared through this public Facebook page.

Empowering the Public to Help

The ADAM Program quickly distributes missing child posters to police, news media, schools, businesses, medical centers and other recipients within a specific geographic search areas. The public can help in the recovery efforts by signing up to receive missing child alerts in their area.
NCMEC has also created an interactive map depicting long term missing cases as well as cases of unidentified children. This map, available to the public, allows users to search cases by type, location, date, and other filters. With links to posters and NamUS pages when applicable, this is a powerful tool for interested citizens seeking to help in the search for and identification of missing children.
Long Term Missing and Unidentified Child Map

Visit NCMEC's Long Term Missing & Unidentified Child Map

Assisting in Biometrics Collection and Analysis

NCMEC’s Forensic Services Unit works with industry experts to help find long-term missing children and to identify deceased children remains. Members of this unit can assist law enforcement, medical examiners, and coroners by:

  • Using case management software, reviewing records, utilizing our case analysis services, and comparing to similar cases and offenders.
  • Ensuring DNA is collected and profiled from both missing children and cases of unknown children in CODIS
  • Facilitating collection of dental records for forensic odontology coding
  • Facilitating the collection and coding of fingerprints
  • Documenting all personal belongings found with a deceased child such as jewelry and clothing for dissemination to the public and law enforcement
  • Searching and analyzing data for possible matches in the NCMEC, NamUS, and NCIC databases.