What about the thousands of other kids who are reported missing each year?
More than 46,000 children were reported missing in Florida last year. Some are kids who ran away more than once. But many of them were returned home safely.
This is one of the reasons many media outlets don't report on runaways. The Orlando Sentinel's policy is to report about a missing person if a crime has been committed, if there is imminent risk to the person or if the missing person is particularly newsworthy.
OrlandoSentinel.com often posts missing-persons alerts released by local police.
Teenage runaways are equally and often more at risk than their younger counterparts, said Nancy McBride, National Safety Director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Though they're too young to buy alcohol or cigarettes — and sometimes not even old enough to have a drivers license — some runaways turn to or are forced into prostitution.
"The pimps and the criminal organizations are just pouncing on these kids," said Lee Condon, a Special Agent Supervisor with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "It's a huge problem."
Sherry Friedlander, founder of A Child is Missing, said toddlers can wander off. Some children want to take adventures. But teenagers run away to see the world, not realizing the realities of it.
"The minute they go out on that street, they're subject to being picked up. ..," Friedlander said. "They're entered into the prostitution rings, and you never see them again."
Amy L. Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5735.