May 22, 2020

Have You Seen Me? Working Together to Locate and Recover Missing Children

By Matthew Tilley
Categories

Every year on May 25, the United States observes National Missing Children’s Day. This date marks the anniversary of the disappearance of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who went missing from a New York street on his way to his school bus in 1979. For nearly 40 years now, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has worked to help locate and recover missing children by reminding us that every child deserves a safe childhood.

Yet, that work is far from over. In 2019 alone, there were nearly 422,000 reports of missing children. And many of those names, photographs and accompanying descriptions are featured in Valassis’ Have You Seen Me?® program:

  • “He was last seen walking to school near his home, wearing a gray T-shirt, jeans, and flip-flops….”
  • “Sam’s photo is shown age-progressed to 25 years. She was last seen on a playground in her neighborhood….”
  • “She was wearing a dark green hoodie, a pink My Little Pony T-shirt, blue jeans, and white tennis shoes.…”
  • “He has not been seen since he went to the Washington County Fair with his family….”

Beyond the promotions and savings Valassis delivers to millions of homes in America each week, is an underlying constant visual of a missing child who is lost, taken, or sometimes has left on their own when they felt they had nowhere else to turn.

As a parent myself, some days I am scared to let my children out of my sight for even a moment. But then I remember that it’s important to let children explore and experience things on their own. Plus, I have learned that statistically, non-family abduction makes up the lowest percentage of children reported missing. According to NCMEC:

  • 92% are endangered runaways
  • 4% are family abductions
  • 3% are critically missing young adults (18–20)
  • 1% are lost, injured or otherwise missing
  • Less than 1% are non-family abductions

In fact, NCMEC doesn’t emphasize “stranger danger” as much nowadays because in many of cases it is a stranger that has helped in the recovery of a child. This happened in the case of Wisconsin teenager Jayme Closs that made national headlines. Once she was able to free herself, it was a woman walking her dog that helped Jayme to safety and called 911.

That is part of the reason that the Have You Seen Me? program leverages Valassis’ strengths to reach and engage consumers in the effort to recover missing children. Through this program, missing children are featured geographically in areas where there is the greatest opportunity for them to be found.

Each week, we deliver a missing child’s photo right into the hands of “strangers” that can make a difference. And we have proven it works, 164 times over! So, when you see a photo of a missing child, take a closer look — maybe, just maybe — you will be the reason a searching family and missing child are reunited.

For more information on the Have You Seen Me? program, visit https://vericast.com/corporate-responsibility/. For more information on National Missing Children’s Day, visit https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/events/national-missing-childrens-day.

 

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