17 Facts You Didn’t Know About The ‘Missing Child’ On The Milk Carton

How did it all start? And how did technology replace the “Have you seen me?” image from milk cartons and bulletin boards?

1. It started with pamphlets in the 70s.

Police viewed the disappearances as domestic disagreements rather than as kidnappings, so parents began searching and spreading the word themselves.

2. In 1984 few dairies began to include the pamphlet in their milk carton.

3. Some claim Etan Patz was the first milk carton missing child.

Keith Bedford / Reuters

4. May 25th is Missing Children’s Day, it was established in 1983 on the anniversary of Etan Patz’s disappearance.

5. Milk cartons were not the only place missing children appeared.


Missing children appeared on pizza boxes, grocery bags, and junk mail envelopes alongside the question, “Have you seen me?”

6. By 1985, 700 out of the 1,800 independent dairies were part of the Missing Child campaign.

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

7. In late 1980s milk cartons stopped showing missing children in fear of scaring other kids.

Pediatricians like Benjamin Spock and T. Berry Brazelton worried that they frightened children unnecessarily.

8. But the “Have You Seen Me?” template is still used for fun.

9. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was opened in 1984.

10. They estimate approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 are reported missing every year.

11. Which is 2,100 kids per day according to Missing Kids.

12. Out of which more than 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members.

13. The AMBER alert was created in 1996 and named after missing child Amber Hagerman.

Its official acronym is “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response.”

14. The first child to be recovered using AMBER Alert was Rae Leigh Bradbury.

She was abducted at 8 weeks old in November 1998 in Texas.

15. In 2011 AMBER alert pages were created on Facebook, taking over the space left empty by the milk carton campaign decades before.


16. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has helped recover over 183,000 missing children.

NCMEC’s missing-child recovery rate has risen from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today.

17. And AMBER Alerts have helped rescue more than 656 children to date.

So remember:

Think twice before dressing up like this for Halloween.

And now our iPhones have become milk cartons, so keep your amber alerts ON!

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