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International Missing Children’s Day 2024

By Amy Clowrey

Published In: Child Abuse

International Missing Children’s Day (IMCD), happens every May 25th and is dedicated to children who have gone missing, including those who have thankfully been found. It’s  a day to raise awareness, share hope, and remind the community of the ongoing efforts to protect our children from harm. At Switalskis, our team of specialist child abuse lawyers are deeply committed to addressing the serious issues of child sexual exploitation and grooming gangs. These issues  often contribute to young people going missing.

child sitting on bed.

In Europe around 250,000 children are reported missing each year  equivalent to one child every two minutes. According to the 116 000 missing persons hotline, 66% of cases involved children who had run away. Others included parental abduction (24%) and children in migration (3%).

The connection between child exploitation and missing children

Child exploitation, particularly sexual exploitation, is a reality that sadly many children face. Grooming gangs and individual predators often target vulnerable young people, manipulating and forcing them into exploitative situations. These situations frequently lead to children running away or being pressured, threatened or forced to leave their homes.

How exploitation leads to children going missing

  • Manipulation and control:
    Abusers use psychological manipulation to gain control over their victims. This can involve making the child believe they are in a loving relationship or providing them with things they need or desire. They then use this power to force the child to do what they want. We often hear of abusers saying things such as “if you really loved me, you would do x.”
  • Fear and threats:
    Children are often threatened with violence against themselves or their families if they attempt to escape or seek help. This fear can compel children to run away, thinking they have no other option. Examples include threats of siblings or family members being physically or sexually abused.
  • Isolation:
    Abusers often isolate their victims from family and friends, making it easier to control them. This isolation can result in children going missing for extended periods as they lose touch with their support networks. We often find that abusers will speak negatively about a child’s family or friends in an attempt to pull the child away from them or say things such as “your family and friends just won’t understand” when talking about their relationship. This isolation leaves the child more vulnerable as they will feel as though they have no one to turn to for help.
  • Substance abuse:
    Some children are introduced to drugs and alcohol as a method of control. Addiction can make it difficult for them to leave exploitative situations and can lead to them being reported as missing. More often than not this is an attempt by the abuser to cause the child to have an addiction and rely further on their abuser for access to the drugs/alcohol. It can then progress to the abuser making the child perform sexual or criminal acts for them as they withhold the substance that the child is addicted to, unless they agree to do what is asked of them.

What you can do

Understanding the link between child exploitation and missing children is crucial in preventing these situations and protecting children in our communities. Here are steps you can take if you suspect a child is at high risk or has been reported missing:

  • Contact your local authority
    - Immediate danger: If a child is in immediate danger, call the police  on 999
    - High-risk cases: For high-risk cases, contact your local child protection services. You can reach out to your local council’s child protection team. Provide as much detail as possible to aid  swift action and recovery of the child.
  • Report to the National Crime Agency (NCA)
    - The NCA’s Missing Persons Unit provides resources and support for cases involving missing children. Reporting a child missing ensures their case is documented and can be checked with other cases to identify patterns or connections. They are also the point of contact for all UK national and international missing person cases.
  • Reach out to child protection Organisations:
    - Organisations such as the NSPCC offer helplines and resources for reporting and managing cases of child exploitation and missing children.
  • Call 116 000
    - The devoted hotline provides crucial support to those missing, at risk and the families affected across Europe.

At Switalskis, our team of specialist child abuse lawyers can provide legal advice and support for families dealing with these traumatic situations. We work closely with authorities and organisations to ensure that every avenue is explored in safeguarding children and bringing them back to safety.

On International Missing Children’s Day, we’re reminded of  the vulnerability of children, how they’re open to exploitation and the severe impact it can have. By raising awareness, supporting local authorities, and providing robust legal support, we can help protect our children from exploitation and ensure they have the opportunity for safe and healthy lives.

If you need assistance or legal advice regarding a case of child exploitation or a missing child, please do not hesitate to contact Switalskis. Our dedicated team is here to help and support you through these challenging times

Call our child abuse compensation team on 0800 138 0458  or email


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Amy has worked in the legal sector for 13 years. She is a Director in our Child Abuse Compensation team.

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