May is also an important month for children because May 25, 2013 is the 30th annual Missing Children’s Day. The first annual Missing Children’s Day was proclaimed by President Reagan in 1983. Although we remember the plight of missing children particularly on this day, it is important to remember that all year long organizations in the U.S., like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), are working to promote children’s rights and protect them. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Childrenopened in 1984 to serve as the nation’s clearinghouse on issues related to missing and sexually exploited children. Today NCMEC is authorized by Congress to perform 19 programs and services to assist law enforcement, families and the professionals who serve them. Organizations like NCMEC and the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs are both working hard to prevent child abductions and serve the needs of children.
Last year, parents abducted nearly 2,000 children to or from the United States. That’s 40 children taken from their homes and from their loved ones each week. Abductions traumatize children, their parents, friends, and family. International Parental Child Abduction is a painful scourge for so many, and it is something that deeply concerns me.
At the State Department, we are committed to preventing child abduction and to helping the children and families caught up in these very complex situations. Our dedicated staff in the Office of Children’s Issues works everyday to support families and children at risk. We help parents access the tools available to prevent international abductions, such as our Passport Issuance Alert Program.
When an abduction does occur however, we work with parents to identify the appropriate response and find the resources that can help bring their children home. In 2010, for example, we helped more than 575 children return to their homes and families, both in the United States and in countries around the world.
This work extends beyond individual families. So, we are encouraging foreign governments to join us as parties to The Hague Convention on Child Abduction. Today we are treaty partners with 68 countries, and we want that number to grow. This convention is a necessary tool for resolving these difficult cases and giving more children the opportunity to come home.
On this National Missing Children’s Day, let’s continue to stand up, speak out, and do our part to keep our must vulnerable citizens safe. And let’s help children around the world come home.