Part I

Missing Children: Understanding the Crisis

Jimmy, 3

Jimmy was only three years old when his non-custodial father abducted him. When police found him a year later after a tip, his vocabulary had diminished and he was suffering from a fungal skin condition caused by a lack of hygiene. The boy screamed when he saw his mother because he had been told that she had abandoned him.

Jane, 14

Jane was 14 when she ran away from her home in the Midwest. She took about $60 from her mother's purse, and the clothes on her back. As her family worried, Jane hitched hiked with truckers in a westward direction, finally settling in Las Vegas. Four months later she was apprehended by local law enforcement for shop lifting. Upon questioning, she revealed a life on the run supported by petty theft and prostitution. When returned to her family, it was discovered that Jane had contracted HIV.


  • About one million children are reported missing each year in the United States.
  • There were 354,100 family or parental abductions in 1988.
  • 163,200 involved concealment, interstate transportation of the child, or evidence that abductor intended to permanently change custody.
  • In 1988, there were 3,200 to 4,600 nonfamily abductions that involved coercion, detention of the child for more than 1 hour, or the luring of a child for the purpose of committing another crime.
  • Teenage girls, 12-19, are the most victimized segment of the population in the U.S.
  • 61% of all rape victims are younger than 18
  • The average victim of an abduction and murder is an 11-year-old girl who is described as a low-risk, normal kid from a middle class neighborhood
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation opens 500-600 criminal kidnapping investigations each year.

Parents have every reason to be concerned about their children in this troubled world. By 1991, an estimated 18.6% of inmates serving time in state prisons had been convicted of a crime against a victim under the age of 18 and more than half of those were convicted of a crime against a child 12 or under. Seven out of ten offenders with child victims reported that they were imprisoned for a rape or sexual assault.

All but 3% of offenders who commit crimes against children were male. While nearly 70% of those serving time for violent crimes against children were white, whites accounted for 40% of those imprisoned for violent crimes against adults. Nearly one of four child victimizers were age 40 or older and offenders who had victimized a child were, on average, 5 years older than violent offenders who had committed their crimes against adults. Three in 10 child victimizers had committed their crimes against multiple victims; they were more likely than those who victimized adults to have had multiple victims.

Joseph A. Kinney is a pioneering leader, author, and researcher who has received numerous national awards for contributions to forging a safer and more productive world. Joseph is President of Safe Spaces, Inc. (

Copyright 2001 All rights reserved.