On May 15, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) held its 30th annual National Missing Children’s Day ceremony at DOJ’s Great Hall in Washington, DC. The ceremony, organized by OJJDP, recognized the extraordinary efforts of America’s law enforcement officers, private citizens, and organizations on behalf of missing children.
Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West and then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary provided keynote remarks, along with John Ryan, CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Robert L. Listenbee, Administrator of OJJDP, offered welcoming remarks and served as master of ceremonies.
“Our progress is measurable, and it’s remarkable,” said Acting Associate Attorney General West. “Last year, investigations initiated by the 61 Internet Crimes Against Children task forces led to more than 6,200 arrests and forensic exams of more than 51,000 computers. The AMBER Alert program, which we are proud to support, now has returned 642 abducted children to their homes, while the AMBER secondary distribution network continues to expand.”
“The loss of a sibling is uniquely devastating and is frequently described as the loss of part of oneself by surviving siblings,” said Ms. Bish. “The unique depth of that loss is typically not recognized by others in the same way other types of familial loss are.”
Ms. Bish is a co-author along with her brother, John, and other siblings of abducted children, of the OJJDP guide, What About Me? Coping With the Abduction of a Brother or Sister, published in 2007. The guide contains information to help and support children of all ages when their brother or sister is kidnapped. Written in child-friendly language, the guide provides ideas on what children can expect in terms of the feelings they may experience, the events that may occur from day to day, and the things they can do to help themselves feel better. This guide was completed and distributed as part of the 2007 National Missing Children’s Day ceremony. It has received an overwhelmingly positive response. In 2012, OJJDP unveiled the Spanish version of this guide.
Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West presented awards to recognize the outstanding efforts of law enforcement personnel and private citizens who have made a difference in recovering abducted children and protecting children from exploitation.
The awards and recipients included:
In 1999, OJJDP initiated a national poster contest to commemorate Missing Children’s Day. The contest’s annual theme is "Bringing Our Missing Children Home." The winning poster is used as the design theme for the following year, and the winner of this competition comes to Washington, DC, with his or her teacher and parents to participate in the Missing Children’s Day ceremony and receive the award.
The 2013 winner was Esther Jung, Edwin Rhodes Elementary School, Chino, CA. First and second runners-up were, respectively, Nacis Lapaix, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Universal Orlando Branch; and Craig Hammond, Frank Lamping Elementary School, Henderson, NV.
The event began and concluded with performances by the Benjamin Orr Elementary School Choir of Washington, DC. The Office of Justice Programs has had a relationship with the Orr School since 1991 as part of DOJ's volunteer outreach program. The ceremony also included a performance of the National Anthem by vocalist Darren Jones.
National Missing Children's Day has been commemorated in the United States since 1983, when it was first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan.
Resources:To access additional resources for parents of missing and abducted children, go to the OJJDP Web site. Also read the "Take 25" page on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's Web site, which encourages parents, guardians, educators, and others to take 25 minutes to talk to children about safety. Information about the Office of Justice Programs' AMBER Alert program is also available online. In recognition of National Missing Children's Day, the Office of Justice Programs' National Criminal Justice Reference Service has created a special feature, Missing Kids, which provides critical AMBER Alert information as well as access to resources for families and law enforcement.