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ents, John and Reveˊ Walsh , had nowhere to turn for help. There were no AMBER Alerts, no national missing children hotline, no way of rapidly distributing Adam’s photo. Ever since, John and Reveˊ have devoted their lives to help- ing families of missing and sexually exploited children – and seeking justice for them. Together in 1984, they founded NCMEC and, in partnership with the Justice Department, helped create a coordinated national response for finding missing children. “When our son was abducted, there were no resources available to help find missing children,” said John Walsh, who currently stars in Investigation Discovery’s “In Pursuit with John Walsh” with his son Callahan . “NCMEC has revolutionized the way our nation searches for missing children and has been bringing more children home safely than ever before.” In addition to the ADAM Program, NCMEC sends daily poster alerts to Ring, weekly “Have you seen me?” flyers through Valas- sis and monthly alerts to Walmart stores to post on their bulletin boards. The Federation of Internet Alerts helps geo-target miss- ing child alerts to websites, print and broadcast media feature them on their platforms and Gas Station TV shows missing children on gas pumps. All help find missing children. NCMEC reached out 20 years ago to LexisNexis Risk Solu- tions for help with its photo distribution, and the technology company designed a program to electronically fax missing poster alerts to businesses, law enforcement, schools, hospitals and other organizations that fell within the target criteria, said Trish McCall , who co-founded the ADAM Program. Then in 2016, the company completely revamped the ADAM Program to integrate Google Maps and other new technologies into the system and to open it up to the public through emails with links to share on social media, McCall said. It was a game changer. Willingham and her team, who create the missing child posters and consult with law enforcement and families through NCMEC’s case managers, now have a dedicated website where they can pinpoint – and actually see on a computer screen – exactly where they need to send them, as was done in the Dallas case, McCall said. In addition to a highway, they can target airports, restaurants, schools, medical facilities, entertainment venues, libraries, bus stations and a raft of other categories. If, for example, law enforce- ment believes a missing child may be in a campground in states somewhere from Alabama to Missouri, they can instantly target campgrounds in those states and send themmissing child alerts. “We try to think of every scenario possible that NCMEC may need,” McCall said. Unlike AMBER Alerts, which are issued by law enforcement only in child abduction cases, ADAM alerts can be sent for all missing child cases, including runaways, which comprise the largest number of all missing children and who are often at great risk of being trafficked for sex. McCall said the team of employees who redesigned the ADAM Program volunteer their time to support the program and “love being involved in such an important cause.” The system is available 24/7 and includes functionality to bump the most critically missing children to the top of the queue, she said. The ADAM Program works in partnership with EOS linx which has 182 digital bulletin boards in Las Vegas and Dallas that are stationed outside convenience stores. Walsh, formerly host of the long-running “America’s Most Wanted” on Fox and credited with helping catch more than 1,000 fugitives, said the enhancements made by LexisNexis Risk Solutions have enabled his organization to send missing posters
quickly and with pinpoint accuracy. “We can even isolate along a highway corridor which has enabled us to quickly share photos with targeted recipients to assist in the recovery of missing chil- dren,” Walsh said. When a tip results in a child’s recovery, it’s often difficult, even impossible, to determine on what platform the caller may have seen the alert with the focus on finding the child. But so far, ADAM is known to have helped in nearly 200 missing child recov- eries and likely many more. But success of the program depends on one crucial element: getting businesses, law enforcement, organizations and the public to sign up at www.ADAMprogram. com to receive the alerts if one is issued in their area. “We need the public, we need law enforcement, we need everyone to sign up,” McCall said. “These posters serve as the voice of a missing child, calling out for help to please find them if only we knew to look for them. We could be in a gas station buy- ing a lottery ticket, while they’re nearby buying a bottle of water. It only takes one person to notice and find a missing child.” In one case, a call from someone who saw an ADAM alert post- er led to the recovery of five young children, who had been taken by their father while their mother was undergoing cancer treat- ments. The caller recognized them as the children in the poster. The children were being held in an isolated cabin in the woods completely off the grid that had no running water and relied on a generator. Every morning, the children would walk a few miles to the nearest neighbor to get water and ate whatever they and their father could get by hunting or foraging in the woods. The children, who were suffering frommalnutrition, are back with their mother. Sometimes, McCall said, missing children will spot their own posters and alert the authorities. “One child saw their poster and said, “Oh, wow, my family is looking for me. I should return home,’” she said. Now, because of the success of ADAM, it has become a role model for other organizations. The ADAM team at LexisNexis Risk Solutions continues to work on enhance- ments to help NCMEC distribute these alerts more efficiently and quickly, including the possibility of sending missing child alerts through text message. “As we all know, time is truly critical,” Walsh said, encouraging people to sign up for the alerts at www. ADAMprogram.com. “ADAM has helped change the way our na- tion searches for missing children.”
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About the Author: John F. Clark is president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), the nation’s leading nonprofit organization on the forefront of child protection for more 36 years. Since 1984, NCMEC’s mission has been to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent child victimization. The organization has helped law enforcement recover more than 341,000 missing kids, distributed billions of missing posters, operated a 24/7 missing children hotline, offered com- fort to countless families and trained and provided free
resources to law-enforcement and other professionals across the country.
Clark has served as NCMEC’s leader for five years. He has extensive law-enforce- ment background, including 28 years with the United States Marshals Service, the last five as its director. Before joining NCMEC, Clark was director of security at Lockheed Martin Corp., the nation’s largest defense contractor. As CEO, Clark oversees a staff of nearly 350 employees and offices in four states, including Virginia, New York, Florida and Texas. In December 2018, Clark ushered in a new era for NCMEC as the organization moved to its new headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.
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