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Commemorating National Missing Children's Day, 2024

The Collaborative Role of NamUs in Child Identification

Each year on May 25th, NamUs observes National Missing Children's Day, a day dedicated to highlighting the urgency of protecting our children and reconnecting missing children with their families. This day not only raises awareness about the vulnerabilities children face but also emphasizes the need for swift and effective action to identify remains and solve cases of missing children — who are nearly always the victims of crimes. Looking ahead to this day, NamUs would like to highlight the crucial role it plays in supporting these investigations.

NamUs is the nation’s only centralized federal program that provides technology, forensic, investigative, and analytical services to resolve all long-term missing and unidentified decedent cases, including those of juveniles. Of the more than 24,400 active missing persons cases NamUs is currently supporting, 24% involve juveniles. This is in addition to supporting 1,278 active unidentified decedent cases involving children. 

NamUs uniquely provides a national pathway and infrastructure for both traditional DNA testing and entry into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), as well as for advanced genomic tools including forensic genetic genealogy (FGG). NamUs’ established partnerships with industry leading experts in genetic testing of unidentified human remains and missing persons casework samples — including Bode Technology, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Othram Inc., and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — allow criminal justice agencies across the nation to harness cutting-edge genomic tools to help reconnect missing and unidentified children and adults with their families.

This comprehensive program allows for rapid resolutions of cases, leads to frequent identifications, reinstates identities, and returns names to the otherwise nameless. Since its inception in 2007, NamUs has assisted with the resolution of more than 7,300 unidentified persons cases and 43,160 missing persons cases, 47% of the latter involved juveniles. More than 20% of the identifications NamUs has made indicated they were resolved using DNA, forensic genetic genealogy, dental, fingerprint, anthropological, or radiograph comparisons.

Helen Renee Groomes

A recent NamUs case receiving program funds for FGG testing involved the unidentified remains of a female found in 1978, originally thought to be those of a 30-40 year-old. Othram built a comprehensive genetic profile and their genealogy team was able to generate new leads, allowing the Lincoln County Coroner’s Office to identify their Jane Doe to be 15-year-old Helen Renee Groomes. This case demonstrates the importance of a national program for all unidentified decedent casework as demographic information and circumstances of death may be ambiguous prior to identification. It also highlights the impact of combining resources, expertise, and technology to solve complex cases that have long eluded investigators.

As we observe National Missing Children's Day, it is crucial to acknowledge and support the ongoing work of NamUs and its partners. The journey to bring our missing children home is fraught with challenges, but with continuous technological advancements and collaborative efforts, there is renewed hope that all unidentified children can be reunited back to family.

Date Published: May 23, 2024