About National Missing Children's Day
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25 as National Missing Children's Day. Each year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) commemorates Missing Children's Day with a ceremony honoring the heroic and exemplary efforts of agencies, organizations, and individuals to protect children.
Missing Children’s Day is dedicated to encouraging parents, guardians, caregivers, and others concerned with the well-being of children to make child safety a priority. It serves as a reminder to continue our efforts to reunite missing children with their families and an occasion to honor those dedicated to this cause.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Justice, through OJJDP, recognizes individuals, organizations, and agencies that have made a difference in recovering missing and abducted children and protecting children from exploitation.
The Department recognizes the awardees each May at the annual National Missing Children's Day ceremony in Washington, DC. During the ceremony, awards will be given for the following:
- Attorney General’s Special Commendation
- Missing Children’s Child Protection Award
- Missing Children’s Citizen’s Award
- Missing Children’s Law Enforcement Award
The deadline for nominations was November 14, 2019.
Missing Children's Day Ceremony
The Department of Justice's 2019 commemoration of National Missing Children's Day took place on May 22, 2019, in Washington, DC. The annual event, organized by OJJDP, honors the memory of missing children and recognizes extraordinary efforts made by law enforcement personnel and private citizens to protect children from harm.
During the 2019 Missing Children's Day Ceremony, awards were given for the following:
- Attorney General's Special Commendation
- Missing Children's Law Enforcement Award
- Missing Children's Citizen Award
- Missing Children's Child Protection Award
To learn more about the award recipients and their efforts, access the Department of Justice news release.
Watch the Ceremony
The U.S. Department of Justice live-streamed the May 2019 National Missing Children's Day ceremony honoring the heroic and exemplary efforts of agencies, organizations, and individuals to protect children. Watch a video recording of the 2019 ceremony.
2019 Winning Poster
The winner of the 2019 National Missing children's Day poster contest is Madison Dozier from Reiley Elementary School in Alexandria, Kentucky. In 2019, fifth graders from 33 states submitted winning artwork from their state to this annual poster contest.
With an annual theme of "Bringing Our Missing Children Home," OJJDP invites fifth graders each year to participate in the Missing Children's Day poster contest. The annual contest creates an opportunity for schools, law enforcement, and child advocates to discuss the issue of missing and/or exploited children with youth, parents, and guardians and to promote child safety.
Each state hosts its own local poster competition, and the winning poster from each state is submitted to OJJDP for selection as the national winner. OJJDP invites the winning child, his/her teacher, parents and state clearinghouse manager to Washington, DC to participate in the National Missing Children's Day commemoration in May. The winning poster is the inspiration for the National Missing Children's Day poster and artwork for the following year.
The winner of the National Missing Children's Day Poster Contest is recognized at the ceremony each year.
Contest Submission Information
OJJDP's Missing and Exploited Children's Training and Technical Assistance Program collaborates with OJJDP to coordinate the poster contest and ceremony. Contest rules, contact information for state contest managers, discussion materials, and additional information are available. Prospective participants should check with their state contest manager for the state submission deadline. The national deadline for states to submit their winning poster was March 5, 2019.
View National Missing Children's Day posters from previous years dating back to 2000.
- View the posters submitted by states for the 2018 contest.
- Access the gallery of national posters from previous years.
In the 1990s, Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train" music video featured images of missing children and helped recover 21 of the featured children. For the 25th anniversary, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) reimagined "Runaway Train" with new artists and created a first-of-its-kind music video.
Knowing that more than half of recovered children are found in the state in which they are missing from, NCMEC used today's technology to present images of children missing from the area in which the video is being watched.
Visit the Runaway Train 25 website to watch the music video and learn more about the campaign. Also see the NCMEC Search for Missing Children page to conduct your own search of currently missing children.
In May 2015, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) issued a Forget-Me-Not stamp to increase public awareness of missing children and ways in which members of the public can assist in search efforts.
The stamp shows a group of purple forget-me-nots along with a lone flower and features the words "Forget-Me-Not" and "Help Find Missing Children."
Access OJJDP publications and resources available on missing children. Learn more about the OJJDP-supported AMBER Alert system, help available for families, and OJJDP's partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Visit the Missing and Exploited Children In Focus page.