The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART) 1, 2, 3 were conducted in 1988, 1999, and 2011 in response to language in the Missing Children's Assistance Act that instructed OJJDP "to conduct national incidence studies to determine the actual number of children reported missing each year, the number of children who are victims of abduction by strangers, the number of children who are the victims of parental kidnappings, and the number of children who are recovered each year." The studies provided national estimates of missing children based on surveys of households, juvenile residential facilities, and law enforcement agencies.
Goals and Objectives:
The NISMART program identified and collected information on five categories of episodes that can cause children to become missing. "Episode children" include those who (1) were abducted by a family member; (2) were abducted by a nonfamily perpetrator (including "stereotypical" kidnappings); (3) ran away or were thrown away (i.e., told to leave home or prevented from returning home by a parent or other household member); (4) were missing because they were lost, stranded, or injured; and (5) were missing for benign reasons (i.e., misunderstandings). NISMART-2 and NISMART-3 used these standard definitions to develop unified estimates of missing children, including those who were and were not reported to an agency for help in locating them.
The most recent NISMART-3 collection experienced significant methodological challenges due to changes in technology and declines in response rates. As a result, OJJDP began exploring alternative strategies for collecting data on missing children. In 2017, OJJDP issued a competitive award to Westat in partnership with the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children's Research Center to collect data on child victims of stranger abductions (i.e., stereotypical kidnappings) known to law enforcement agencies and to develop and test strategies to collect information from law enforcement agencies on parental abductions and other types of missing episodes involving children (NISMART 4). Results from NISMART 4 are anticipated in 2020.
In 2017, OJJDP published National Estimates of Missing Children: Updated Findings from a Survey of Parents and Other Primary Caretakers and in 2016 Child Victims of Stereotypical Kidnappings Known to Law Enforcement in 2011.
Publications and Products:
Benjamin Adams, Social Science Analyst
Benjamin.Adams@usdoj.gov | 202-616-3687
Brecht.Donoghue@usdoj.gov | 202-305-1270