Supporting the effort to bring missing kids home

Trish McCall, Program Manager HPCC Systems & ADAM Program Director, LexisNexis Risk Solutions

One early Sunday morning a 12-year-old girl was returning home after finishing up her paper route. A young man driving a blue Datsun slowly approached and asked her a very peculiar question. Not realizing the danger and unable to hear the question clearly the first time, the girl got closer to the vehicle. What happened next is something I will always remember - because, I was that 12-year-old girl.

At the time, I didn’t know why the man suddenly sped off in a hurry after seeing a neighbor step outside to pick up his paper. Unfazed by the event, I continued on my path home. It wasn’t until I retold the story to my parents, repeating the question the man asked me and seeing their horrified reaction that I learned I had been in a dangerous situation. Today, I am forever grateful that the neighbor stepped outside causing the driver to change course. Otherwise the outcome could have been much different.

Sadly, there are many children with stories that do have a much different outcome. According to the FBI, last year alone there were more than 400,000 children reported missing to law enforcement in the United States. Many missing children are recovered quickly, but others lead to searches that last for months, years, or even decades. Every day the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), works to help law enforcement find missing children and reunite them with their families - and photo distribution is a critical component supporting their recovery efforts. That is why I jumped at the opportunity when my team was tasked with creating a tool NCMEC could use to rapidly distribute posters of missing children.

At that time, in early 2000, NCMEC was manually sending faxes to alert businesses and law enforcement about missing children. The process was time-consuming and sometimes took days to distribute just one fax. Knowing that time is of the essence in the case of a missing child, a small team of us worked together to assess their needs and build a prototype that soon spawned into the ADAM ProgramSM (Automated Delivery of Alerts on Missing Children) which was donated to NCMEC solely for their use. Named in honor of Adam Walsh, this technology distributes missing child posters to targeted recipients within a specific geographic search area in minutes.

I remember the day when we received word of our first recovery through the ADAM Program. The excitement was booming in the hallways as we shared the good news with fellow colleagues throughout the day. From that moment on, I made an oath to keep this program strong and think of more ways to improve the technology. Soon one recovery became two, then 10, then 50, then 100. Today the total number of children recovered as a result of the ADAM Program is 159.

It is amazing to see how much the ADAM Program has grown since its inception with the help and support of the RELX Group family. It is an honor for me to manage the program. But, all Reed Elsevier employees should feel proud of the work they do and share the same rewarding feeling each time we assist in the recovery of a missing child. The ADAM Program is truly a success story on many levels: innovation, team work, working without boundaries and making a positive impact in the community.

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