Missing Children Europe is the European federation for missing and sexually exploited children. We represent a network of 30 NGOs in 24 countries in Europe.
Each year, well over 250.000 children slip through the net of child protection systems in Europe as they go missing following a wide range of situations of conflict, violence and abuse. Missing Children Europe and its 30 grassroots members actively prevent, protect and support missing children and their families in 24 countries in Europe.
Runaways, parental abductions and missing unaccompanied migrant children make up to 89% of missing children cases in the EU, but awareness and child protection responses for these vulnerable categories of missing children and their families still require a lot of support. Data from the dedicated European hotline for missing children active in 29 countries also reveals that over 25% of all cases involve a cross-border element. The issue of missing children is not confined to national borders and therefore requires European support structures and European policies to effectively tackle the real issues surrounding why children go missing.
This is the role played by Missing Children Europe. Our mission is to protect children from any harmful situation that may lead to, or result from, them going missing. We do this by supporting the development of effective cross-border solutions, raising awareness of these issues, developing effective networks and cooperation channels and promoting the implementation of supportive legislation for the best interests of the child.
Missing Children Europe has developed rapidly since it obtained its financial and administrative independence from its Belgian member and co-founder Child Focus in 2008. Seven years later Missing Children Europe has evolved to focus on the overall problem of missing children by working on understanding the many reasons why children go missing and what happens to them when they do. Based on the strategy crafted for 2014-2017, the organisation has focused its efforts on supporting the development of embedded and complementary child protection systems in Europe through developing cross-border responses and projects, supporting research and evidence, raising awareness and prevention and promoting relevant policies and laws.
We have a long way to go but we believe that together we can create a safer Europe for children.
Vision and Mission
Every two minutes, a child is reported missing in the EU. The cause as well as the effect of the disappearance may include situations of violence and abuse, including sexual exploitation. Missing Children Europe’s vision is that all children should be able to rely on effective and holistic systems of child protection, where all measures are taken to empower and protect them from any situation of harm.
Our mission is to enable the development of effective and holistic child protection systems to:
• prevent children from going missing,
• support missing children and their families, and
• protect children from any risk of violence and abuse that may lead to or result from going missing.
Visual summary of Missing Children Europe
We believe that best use is made of our resources if we enhance the specificity of our work, by focusing on the problem of missing, including high quality responses to upstreamand downstream causes and effects of the problem.
An embedded approach
Missing Children Europe has historically been (one of) the only European umbrella organisation focusing on the specific issue of missing children. Missing Children Europe’s work related to missing children is seen by stakeholders and members as its strongest feature, including in particularits work regarding the 116 000 hotline for missing children, operational in 27 of 28 EU Member States, as well as in an increasing number of non-EU countries. The issue of missing children has, thanks to the work of Missing Children Europe, been picked up by other stake-holders, making it essential for Missing Children Europeto deepen its expertise and understanding of the problem, improve its services and cooperate with others, if it wishes to maintain its leading role. The sexual exploitation of children is a concern which Missing Children Europe shares with many other national, Europe anand international umbrella organisations. The expertise and active role of other organisations dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse as well as the very specific historical origin of Missing Children Europe’s dichotomous mission has generated reflection on the necessity and legitimacy of Missing Children Europe’s work regarding the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. Moving away from the specific ‘issues-based approach’ with ‘missing’ and ‘sexual exploitation or abuse’ as two distinct areas of focus, the new strategy promotes a more embedded and integrated approach, centered around missing children, with a clear focus on the upstream and downstream causes and effects of child disappearance, including sexual exploitation.
Partnership & complementarity towards a holistic approach
The disappearance of a child is not an isolated or standalone event. It is embedded in a series of different factors and events related to the child’s physical and psycho- social wellbeing, family environment, socio-cultural community and socio-economic context. Each of these aspects and dimensions involves different stakeholders concerned with different aspects of and responsibilities regarding the problem. Any effective response to the disappearance of a child must therefore take this broader context and multiplicity of actors into account. This is why
the new strategy of Missing Children Europe aims at improving its partnership approach. Missing Children Europe wishes to connect the dots between the different complementary players whose work can impact the child at risk of going missing. In doing so, Missing Children Europe wishes to contribute to the development of effective child protection systems, in line with current European and international policy recommendations and developments.
European added value
Children go missing everywhere, and the disappearance of a child is not confined within national borders. As a federation composed of grassroots organisations, Missing Children Europe wishes to focus on those fields where European coordination, harmonization, and representation constitutes an added value over the work of national stakeholders. The new strategy furthermore looks at expanding the geographical scope of Missing Children Europe, in those cases where a pan-European approach (rather than an EU approach) brings additional safeguards to the well-being of children in Europe.
Quality before quantity
A lot has been done in previous years to develop responses to missing children, including in particular the development of 116 000 hotlines and child alert systems. With the hotline being close to operational in all EU Member States and child alert systems being on the rise across the EU, Missing Children Europe is keen to enhance the quality of services delivered by the stakeholders involved.
The four principles underlying Missing Children Europe’s strategy are reflected in Missing Children Europe’s ambition to:
1. generate tangible added value over the work undertaken by national stakeholders;
2. generate tangible added value over the work undertaken by other European stakeholders;
3. focus on those areas of work where European coordination is needed to address the problem.
Read more about Missing Children Europe’s Strategy for 2014-2017 here and take a look at Missing Children Europe’s Annual Report for 2014 here.
“It seems unreal that a child goes missing every 2 minutes in the EU and that we still fight multiple networks instigating severe sexual abuse of babies and children in the off- and on-line world. But that is a fact. At the same time it is some consolation that Missing Children Europe continues to play a key role as one of the ‘solid rocks’ in the defense against these atrocities. This organisation and their dedicated staff remain a true example of the spirit that is needed and will continue to be needed to protect the most valuable asset of our societies: our children”
Assistant Director, Head of European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and Chair of the European Financial Coalition against commercial sexual exploitation of children online