U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

National Estimates of Children Missing Involuntarily or for Benign Reasons

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2005
12 pages
Publication Series

This bulletin presents data on the numbers and characteristics of two groups of children not often mentioned in the literature on missing children: those involuntarily missing because they were lost, injured, or stranded and those missing for benign reasons.


The data presented were obtained from two components of the Second National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART-2): the National Household Survey of Adult Caretakers and the National Household Survey of Youth. These surveys were conducted during 1999 and reflect the experiences of children in the United States over a 12-month period. The data indicate that in 1999 an estimated 204,500 children were involuntarily missing from their caretakers because they were lost, injured, or stranded; 68,100 of these children were reported to authorities for assistance in locating them. An estimated 43,700 children were missing because they were injured, and 10,200 were reported to authorities. An estimated 340,500 children missing and reported to authorities were missing due to benign circumstances and miscommunications that resulted in no harm to the child. These children constituted 43 percent of the children reported missing in all categories. Children missing involuntarily because they were lost or injured were disproportionately white, male, and older. They disappeared most often in wooded areas or parks and from the company of their caretakers. Children missing as a result of benign circumstances and miscommunications were disproportionately teens who failed to come home or were gone from home longer than expected. 4 tables and 5 references

Date Published: July 1, 2005