Missing Children, State Care, and Child Sex Trafficking: Engaging the Judiciary in Building a Collaborative Response

National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

This technical assistance brief answers the question “What steps can a judge take when a child runs away or goes missing from care?” The brief is intended to educate juvenile and family court judges in the United States on the steps to be taken in order to ensure legal guardians, social workers, and child advocates are aware of the assistance available from the the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in locating and recovering children who go missing from care.

The brief introduces the situation of children missing from care, including their vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking, and underscores judges’ responsibilities for those children and youth, including ensuring their safety, well-being, permanency, and rehabilitation. The brief describes the services and capacities of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and reviews the intersections between child welfare, juvenile justice, and child trafficking and exploitation. The brief highlights the many dangers facing missing children and the importance of early reporting. The brief then outlines the specific efforts that judges can make in order to assist in the location and recovery of children missing from care.