99.8% of the children who go missing do come home.

  • Nearly 90% of missing children have simply misunderstood directions or miscommunicated their plans, are lost, or have run away.
  • 9% are kidnapped by a family member in a custody dispute.
  • 3% are abducted by non-family members, usually during the commission of a crime such as robbery or sexual assault. The kidnapper is often someone the child knows.
  • Only about 100 children (a fraction of 1%) are kidnapped each year in the stereotypical stranger abductions you hear about in the news.
  • About half of these 100 children come home.

National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children -- 2003

Every ten years or so the US Department of Justice conducts a study of missing child cases in the United States. The most recent, NISMART II, was published in October 2003.

This study is in PDF format. You may need to download the free Adobe Reader to view them.

Kidnapped Child Homicide Statistics

The other study that is often quoted by media and by professionals in the missing child field was conducted by the Attorney General of Washington State in 1997.

The findings were that among abducted children who were murdered, "in 74 percent of the cases the victims were dead within three hours after abduction." What is not generally reported is the fact that this statistic refers to a very small group of children abducted by violent or predatory kidnappers (approximately 1 in every 10,000 reports of a missing child).

So yes, it is important to find the child quickly, in case the kidnapping is one of that small group. But it is incorrect to assume that 74% of kidnapped children are at risk of being killed if not found within 3 hours.

You can download the Executive Summary of that report here in PDF format. You can also obtain more information about the study by visiting the Attorney General's website.

Additional child kidnapping information: