NISMART 2 Categories

  • Runaways/Thrownaways. Runaways are children who leave home voluntarily without the knowledge or permission of their parents or guardians and who stay away at least overnight. Thrownaways are children who do not leave home voluntarily, but instead are abandoned; are forced from their homes by parents or guardians, and not allowed to return; or come and go totally unsupervised. Runaways can be distinguished from thrownaways in theory, but distinguishing between them in practice is very difficult because many episodes of both result from some sort of family conflict.

  • Children missing due to nonfamily abductions. Children who are taken or unlawfully detained by someone who is not a parent, relative, or legal guardian without the knowledge or consent of a parent or legal guardian are classified as missing due to nonfamily abductions.

  • Children missing due to family abductions. Children who are taken from or not returned to their residence by a parent or relative, or some other agent acting for a parent, in violation of a legal or verbal custody agreement or other living arrangement are classified as missing due to family abductions. The perpetrator attempts to conceal what is happening, attempts to flee in order to make recovery more difficult, or indicates an intent to affect custodial arrangements indefinitely.

  • Children missing due to custodial interference. Children who are taken from or not returned to their legal custodian by a parent or relative, or some other agent acting for a parent, in violation of a legal or verbal custody agreement or other living arrangement are classified as missing due to custodial interference. Unlike the category of children missing due to family abductions, this category does not require concealment or flight or intent to affect custodial arrangements indefinitely.

  • Children lost and involuntarily missing. Children who are lost and involuntarily missing and fail to return home or make contact with a parent, guardian, or other caretaker are classified as missing if their caretaker becomes alarmed and makes some attempt to locate the children. These children, or others with them, actively try to return home or make contact with the caretaker, but they are lost or stranded in an isolated place.

  • Children missing due to injury. Children who are missing due to an injury fail to return home or make contact with a parent, guardian, or other caretaker, and their caretaker becomes alarmed and makes some attempt to locate the children. In these cases, the children fail to return or make contact because they have suffered serious harm or injuries that require medical attention.

  • Children missing due to false alarm situations. Children who are missing due to false alarm situations fail to return home or make contact with a parent, guardian, or other caretaker, and their caretaker becomes alarmed and makes some attempt to locate the children. The caretaker contacts the police or another agency, but no actual harm comes to the children (e.g., failure to locate the children may result from a miscommunication or a mixup between caretakers), and no other definitional criteria are met.

  • Children sexually assaulted. Children who are forced by an offender to display their sexual parts or have contact with the sexual parts of another person for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal of the offender are classified as sexually assaulted.



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Second Comprehensive Study of Missing Children
Juvenile Justice Bulletin    ·    April 2000