Crimes Involving Children

Find information about crimes involving children.

AMBER Alert System

The AMBER Alert System is an early warning system to help find abducted children. AMBER stands for America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response. There are AMBER Alert plans in all 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. AMBER Alert programs have helped save the lives of over 700 children nationwide.

How an AMBER Alert Works

Once law enforcement determines that an abduction is taking place and that it meets AMBER Alert criteria:

  • They notify broadcasters and state transportation officials.
  • Interrupt regular programming on radio and television.
  • AMBER Alerts can also appear on highway signs, lottery tickets, wireless devices such as mobile phones, and over the Internet.

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Child Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse is harm done to a child through a physical, emotional, or sexual act, or by neglect or abandonment.

Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

Some common signs of abuse or neglect in a child include:

  • Unexplained bruises
  • Overly passive or overly aggressive behavior
  • Staying away from or being afraid to go home
  • Lacking clean or appropriate clothes, food, or other basic necessities

Signs that a parent may be abusing or neglecting their child include:

  • Indifference or apathy
  • Berating, shaming, blaming, or rejection
  • Relying on the child for the parent's own emotional needs
  • Conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child's physical injuries

Report Suspected Child Abuse

If an abusive event is in progress or you know or suspect someone abused, neglected, or exploited a child, call 911.

You may also:

  • Contact your local child protective agency, If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, or if you are a child who is being maltreated, contact your local child protective services office or law enforcement agency so professionals can assess the situation.
  • Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) if you suspect abuse, are a child abuse victim, or are a parent who needs help. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and operates in the United States, its territories, and Canada.

There are also a number of other resources available with information on how to handle a suspected child abuse and/or neglect situation:

  • The Child Welfare Information Gateway has information on how to protect a child’s safety, support families, and prevent child maltreatment. There are resources available for managers and administrators and information on how to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
  • The National Council on Child Abuse & Family Violence has compiled a list of contact information for each state’s child abuse hotline.
  • Each state controls and operates their own Child Protective Services. Visit your state’s health and human resources website for more information.

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International Kidnapping

The U.S. Department of State's (DOS) Office of Children's Issues (OCI) can help you in cases of international kidnapping (abduction) of children by a family member.

Emergencies - Abductions in Progress

Contact OCI immediately if your child is in the process of being abducted internationally by a family member, and is not yet abroad.

Kidnapping Threat or Kidnapping after the Fact

Contact OCI for help if a family member has kidnapped a child to the U.S. or kidnapped a child from the U.S.

Please note: OCI does not suggest you attempt to "re-abduct" your child at any time.

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Missing Children

Your Child is Missing

Notify your local police department or county sheriff immediately. The first few hours are critical. These publications outline what you can do to help find your child:

Help Find Missing Children

Police departments rely on information and tips from the public when trying to solve crimes or locate missing persons. The following resources may be able to help you find a missing child:



  • AMBER Alerts by State - As soon as law enforcement determines that a child abduction meets AMBER Alert criteria, they issue an AMBER Alert and notify broadcasters and state transportation officials. AMBER Alerts are broadcast on TV, radio, highway signs, and other devices.
  • Code Adam - A child safety program used in establishments across the nation. In participating establishments, they follow a specific process and designated employees stop what they are doing if a Code Adam announcement comes out to help search for a child. The Code Adam Program in Federal Buildings takes care of government establishments.

Online Databases

Prevent Child Abduction and Exploitation

Talk with your child. The NCMEC offers publications on child safety and prevention to help parents and educators to talk with kids.

The NCMEC also recommends that families have a Child ID kit prepared for each child in the event he or she goes missing. A free app from the FBI —FBI Child ID (Android , iOS)—allows you to store photos and information about your child. If your child goes missing, you can quickly share that data with authorities.

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Report Child Pornography

Federal law defines child pornography as any kind of visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (any person younger than 18). This includes drawings, cartoons, sculptures, paintings, photographs, films, videos, or computer-generated images or pictures.

To report child pornography, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's (NCMEC):

Child Pornography in the Mail

It is illegal to send child pornography through the U.S. Mail. For more information, visit the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's section on child exploitation.

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