There are laws both at the Federal and State level which guide and govern the reporting and response to children reported missing. These laws are important for both the public and those responding to reports of missing children to ensure an informed and appropriate response.

National Child Search Assistance Act:

The National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 requires each Federal, state, and local law enforcement agency to enter each case of a missing child under the age of 18 into NCIC.

The requirements of the Act, as stated in the Congressional Record dated 11/2/90, indicate that "Each state reporting under the provisions of this Act shall:

Ensure that no law enforcement agency within the state establishes or maintains any policy that requires the observance of any waiting period before accepting a missing child or unidentified person report;

Provide that each such report and all necessary and available information, which, with respect to each missing child, shall include:

  • the name, date of birth, sex, race, height, weight, and eye and hair color of the child;
  • the date and location of the last known contact with the child; and
  • the category (see CJIS manual) under which the child is reported missing is entered immediately into the state law enforcement system and the National Crime Information Center computer networks and made available to the Missing Children Information Clearing House within the state or other agency designated within the state to receive such reports.

Provide that after receiving reports as provided in paragraph (2), the law enforcement agency that entered the report into the National Crime Information Center shall:

  • no later than 60 days after the original entry of the record into the state law enforcement system and National Crime Information Center computer networks, verify and update such record with any additional information, including, where available, medical and dental records;
  • institute or assist with appropriate search and investigative procedures; and
  • maintain close liaison with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for the exchange of information and technical assistance in the missing children cases.

Massachusetts General Law regarding Juveniles:

M.G.L. c.22A, S.4, states that,"[W]henever a parent, guardian, or governmental unit responsible for a child, reports to any police officer or law enforcement official that a child is missing, such police officer or official shall immediately cause to be entered into the central register relevant information relative to said missing child. Such police officer or law enforcement official shall also immediately undertake to locate such missing child.

Police officers, law enforcement officials and others so designated by the commissioner solely for the purpose of locating a missing child shall have access to the fingerprints and other data and information concerning the missing child on file with the central register.

The provisions of this statute have been interpreted to mean that any agency which receives a report of a missing child MUST enter a Missing Person record as soon as enough data on the child is available to make an entry, regardless of whether a signed missing person report has been completed. Therefore, users should attempt to get the necessary data from the person making the report and make a CJIS Missing Person entry immediately.

Suzanne's Law:

As of December 31, 2005, there were 109,531 active missing person records in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) systems. Juveniles under the age of 18 accounted for 58,081 (53.03 %) of the records and 11,868 (10.84 %) were for juveniles between the ages of 18 and 20.

These are the number of records, not actual persons. There can be more entries than children (ex. every time a child runs away an entry is made and when they are found it is closed). So if a child runs away 10 times, that could have 10 different entries.

It is mandatory for missing children to be entered into NCIC under the age of 18 and now with the Suzanne's law under the age of 21. There are some states fighting to get this changed that do not believe runaways are missing children. There are some states that only enter under 16.

"Suzanne's Law" amends Section 3701 (a) of the Crime Control Act of 1990 so that there is no waiting period before a law enforcement agency initiates an investigation of a missing person under the age of twenty one and reports the missing person to the National Crime Information Center of the Department of Justice.

"Suzanne's Law" is named after Suzanne Lyall, a student at State University of New York at Albany, who has been missing since 1998.