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Kelsey Sena Tamakloe
By Kelsey Sena Tamakloe July 12, 2021

Social media post conflates reports of missing children with pending cases

If Your Time is short

  • The post takes these reports of missing children out of context. 

  • These numbers come from 2015 reports.

  • These numbers do not represent the number of children who are still missing.

A social media post criticized the amount of attention paid to COVID-19 around the world, saying too little is paid to hundreds of thousands of missing children.

"OMG! Look at these Covid cases," the July 1 Instagram post said, with intended sarcasm. It introduces a list of seven countries with these totals:

Australia - 20,000

Canada - 45,288

Germany - 100,000

India - 96,000

Russia - 45,000

Spain - 20,000

United Kingdom - 112,853

United States - 460,000

"Oh whoops, I meant children that have gone missing so far this year without a peep from the media," the post finished. 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its news feed. (Read more about PolitiFact’s partnership with Facebook.)

The information displayed in this post is similar to the Global Missing Children’s Network data on missing children. However, there are a few problems with this framing of the data.

The organization’s data was collected in 2015 — not 2021. 

The bigger issue is that the Global Missing Children’s Network data refers to the number of children reported missing. The majority of children are not currently missing.

We took a deeper look into statistics from the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

United States 

The network based its U.S. total on 2015 statistics for missing people under age 18 from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. The number of entries in 2015 was 460,699. 

Reports of missing children accounted for 72% of all missing-person reports. On the whole, all but 166 cases were removed from the database. Reasons for a removal include a law enforcement agency locating the subject, the individual returned home, or the agency determined the record to be invalid.  

In 2020, the number of entries for children under 18 in 2020 was 365,348. Reports on missing children accounted for 67% of all missing-person reports. Overall, all but 2,146 cases were removed.

Canada

Canada’s methods on reporting missing children are similar to the U.S. A 2015 fact sheet said the number of missing person subjects reported reflect a "point in time." In 2015, there were 45,288 reports of missing children. In 2015, 58% of missing children reports were cleared within 24 hours, while 91% were cleared within a week. 

In 2020, the number of missing children reported in Canada was 31,948. A similar pattern unfolded, with 63% of reports removed within 24 hours, and 92% removed within a week. 

United Kingdom 

For the United Kingdom in 2015, the number of missing children incidents was 122,321. The UK Missing Persons Bureau defines an incident as a single episode of a person being reported as missing to the police. The children were found in 49,501 incidents.  

For the United Kingdom, most missing persons cases are resolved within two days of being reported, according to the UK Missing Persons Bureau. In 2019, the total number of reported missing children incidents in England and Wales was 65,800. Of those, 43% of missing children there returned home voluntarily, 24% were found by police, and 11% were found by family or guardians.

Our ruling

The post attempts to draw attention to the number of missing children in major countries around the world, but there are a couple of issues with its data. One, these large numbers do not reflect data from 2021. Moreover, the numbers do not represent children who are currently missing but of children who were reported to be — which is a big difference, since most of the children were found.

We rate this claim False. 

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Social media post conflates reports of missing children with pending cases

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