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A Unique Approach in the Search for Missing Children

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About 2,100 children go missing in the U.S. every single day. This is a huge problem that screams for innovative methods in the effort to find them and find them fast. I am a parent and as such I can only imagine the pain parents of missing children go through. They try everything within their means but sadly enough; most do not have much means.

The U.S. Department of Justice* reports:

• 797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing in a one-year period of time studied resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.
• 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
• 58,200 children were the victims of non-family abductions.

Not a single day goes by without a story in the media about someone missing, but the few that do get featured are but a fraction of all that currently are missing. It is also interesting to note that the ones covered in the media tend to be of affluent parents and photogenic, to say the least. Cases go on for years and years and even the other day I got an email about "Maggie" who went missing five years ago in Portugal.

In the "old" days the missing were featured on milk cartons but they typically had been missing for quite some time before they were featured. When I used to get the electric bill via "snail-mail" it had one or two missing persons on it but now I am paperless, all bills come via email. Hmm... Maybe email could help us search?

There are many very good efforts, from nonprofits to for-profit corporations. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children (CMEC) has an RSS feed (a free news-style feed) of all the missing and Amber Alerts and do a great job in getting data out very fast. "A Child is Missing" is also a great system in use by many states using SMS to alert locals about someone gone missing.

Very soon after I founded WRAPmail, I realized that our technology could be used for something good. I think the constant news about missing children and what we developed somehow connected in my head. The concept behind WRAPmail is to turn regular one-on-one emails into marketing and branding for the sender's company or the senders themselves. It was a simple idea conceived from the fact that we all have websites (corporate or social) and we all use email on a daily basis. WRAPmail adds a dynamic and interactive letterhead around these emails with embedded links back to senders' website(s). I did a little research and found the RSS feed from the CMEC and asked our programmers if we could not take that feed and feed it directly into emails sent by our users. Sure enough, they figured out a way to do this and today every email sent by any of our employees, any free WRAPmail client and any other client who opts in now features one missing child with an embedded link back to CMEC, where those that click can find more information.

WRAPmail is for-profit, but if we also can do something good, why not? My thinking was pretty simple: Featuring more children should increase the chance of finding more. Technology makes us able to insert these impressions the second they are available from CMEC. Imagine how many could be featured if, for example, all emails sent by Government employees featured one missing child each. What if large Organizations did the same? We are coming close to an election were billions of dollars are or will be spent, among the expenditures are emails sent by
politicians, staff and party organizations; each one could feature a missing child.

Think about it. You get an email from someone you know, what if that email had an image of a missing child and you saw this just before stepping out to lunch? The chances that you would see this child on your way to or from lunch as miniscule but what IF? What if we all were exposed to these images? I say the chances of finding more would increase.

*Andrea J. Sedlak, David Finkelhor, Heather Hammer, and Dana J. Schultz. U.S. Department of Justice. "National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview" in National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, October 2002, page 5.]