SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, along with members of the Illinois AMBER Alert Task Force, joined people throughout the state in observing today, May 25, Missing Children’s Day in Illinois. “Light the Way Home” is an opportunity for family and friends to plan events in their communities to raise public awareness about missing children.
“As a father of two myself, my heart goes out to the thousands of families of missing children in Illinois,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I’m asking people across the state to ‘Light the Way Home’ for our missing kids. Turn on your headlights when you’re driving, or switch on your porch light to symbolize your commitment to finding these children. All year, let’s remain vigilant and engaged in our communities and help return these children to safety.”
Illinois, an estimated 38,000 children are reported missing annually, with roughly 95% quickly located and returned safely home. Today, there are still slightly more than 2,000 children missing across the state.
May 25 has been observed as National Missing Children’s Day since it was first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. This year, the 25th
National Missing Children’s Day highlights a new campaign, “Take 25", to assist parents and others to teach children to be alert to potential threats and provide simple preventive steps that children can take to stay safe. “Take 25" encourages families to take 25 minutes to talk with their children about safety and abduction prevention. A new website, http://www.take25.org/
, has been established for the campaign that provides 25 safety tips and other information for parents, guardians, educators and the public.
“We know that teaching children about safety works. It is important that parents and others take the time to talk to their children about these issues. The new campaign is designed to provide information to make it easy for parents and others to teach their children about safety,” said Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “There is no better way to mark the 25th Missing Children’s Day than to launch an initiative designed to empower children and help keep them safe.”
Illinois, in partnership with Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Ohio, is also active in the Interstate Agreement on Missing and Exploited Children. The agreement was established as a network to improve identifying and recovering missing children. The Council is comprised of representatives of state law enforcement and criminal justice agencies from each of these states and meets twice a year.
“The Illinois State Police continues to develop programs to enhance our aggressive efforts to keep children safe,” said ISP Director Larry G. Trent “To date, more than 8,300 students, teachers, and parents have attended NetSmartz workshops that teach students, teachers, and parents how to stay safe online and to protect children from online predators.”
The NetSmartz Workshop was developed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Boys & Girls Clubs of America to teach children and teens how to be safer when using the Internet. The NetSmartz training is part of the Governor’s comprehensive plan to protect young people from criminals and sexual predators who use the Internet to search for potential victims.
On Missing Children’s Day, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will display messages on permanent changeable message boards along the roadways. The signs will read “Missing Children’s Day/Light the Way Home/Turn on Your Headlights.” The message will be displayed on all message boards except those being used for real-time traffic information such as lane closures, detours, congestion information, etc., or for an AMBER Alert.
"A missing child is every parent’s worst nightmare, and IDOT always stands ready and able to help in any way," said IDOT Acting Secretary Milt Sees. "IDOT is able to quickly communicate with thousands of motorists through our statewide system of dynamic message boards and we are very proud to play a part in the AMBER Alert system. We urge all motorists to join in observance of this day by turning on their headlights to help show the way home."