Like so many other children, 6-year-old Etan Patz walked to school on the morning of May 25, 1979 but unlike many others, he never made it. Etan had gone missing and there was no national support to help look for him. Two years later, when my brother, Adam Walsh, also six years old, was abducted from a retail store in South Florida. There was still no regional or national response system in place to help search for Adam; however, the immense media attention surrounding these cases, coupled with the tireless advocacy of my parents, John and Revé Walsh, pushed Congress to pass the Missing Children’s Act in 1982. This mandate allowed, for the first time, missing children’s information to be entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database and became the launching pad for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
National Missing Children’s Day was first proclaimed in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan and is observed every year on May 25, the anniversary of the disappearance of Etan Patz, to encourage everyone to make child safety a priority and to ensure that every child has the safe childhood they deserve.
On this day, we remember Etan, Adam and the countless other children who are still out there. National Missing Children’s Day honors our commitment to help locate and recover missing children. No matter how long a child has been missing, we never stop looking for them. During National Missing Children’s Day, families of missing children are reminded that they aren’t alone and their children will never be forgotten.
The good news is more missing children come home safely today than at any other point in history. Etan’s legacy lives on through the work of child advocates who bring awareness to missing children each year on May 25.
Whether it’s on National Missing Children’s Day or any other day of the year, I encourage all parents to take the time to talk to their children about safety. Empowering a child to be able to identify a bad situation and have the ability to make the right decision is priceless, both online and in the real world. Take the time and start the conversation with your child today. Since we cannot always prepare the path for our children, we should try to prepare our children for the path.
Teach Your Kids Personal Safety
As much as some may want to, parents cannot be with their children at all times. What they can do, however, is teach their children what to watch out for and what rules to follow. Many people may still rely on the age-old “Stranger Danger” way of thinking, when in reality; many children are abducted by people they know. Talking to your child about personal safety is important because while you cannot protect them every second of every day, you can teach them how to protect themselves. Read more parent tips at www.kidsmartz.org
Teach Your Kids Online Safety
More children age 12-17 are online and on mobile devices than any generation before. This poses a unique challenge for parents to ensure the safety of their children online. NCMEC’s NetSmartz program provides free resources for parents to teach their kids how to be safe on the Internet. There are also sections for teachers and law makers, as well as animated videos, video games and comics for kids and teens. More resources are available at www.netsmartz.org/Parents
Callahan Walsh, National Outreach and Marketing Coordinator, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Callahan Walsh has been a presenter on the NRFC December 2014 Webinar How can fathers address bullying issues with their children? and has previously contributed to the DadTalk Blog: What Every Father Should Know About Cyberbullying.