The contest, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, challenges fifth-graders to raise awareness and educate people about unresolved missing children cases. On May 23, 1983, the United States government designated that date as National Missing Children’s Day after Etan Patz vanished from a New York City street three years earlier.
To draw awareness to missing children, Chakraborty, 10, sketched a drawing of a boy with a tear streaming down his cheek as he draws a picture of his family. On the side of the poster, there is a smaller drawing: a family with the words “family is forever” written beneath the image.
“Children should be safe at home and not have to worry about danger,” Saranika wrote in a description of her poster. “I hope no one has to ever be or feel like the boy.”
Chakraborty’s poster was chosen from 302 entries from 49 school districts throughout the state. New York State Missing Persons Clearinghouse, which is located at the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), narrowed the entries to 60 to be reviewed by a panel of three judges.
The Missing Persons Clearinghouse assists law enforcement agencies by providing training, case management guidance and investigative support like publicizing missing children cases. It also administers the state’s Missing Child Alerts, which are activated when a case involving a missing child under the age of 21 doesn’t meet AMBER Alert criteria.
The judges unanimously chose Chakraborty’s poster and assessed each submission without knowing the students’ names or schools. Judges included DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green; Ellen DeChiro, an investigator with the special victim’s unit of the New York State Police; and Matt Frear, whose teenage brother Craig disappeared from Schenectady County in 2004.
“This year’s contest, more than any before it, was very difficult to judge due to the thought, creativity and high quality of work these students put into their posters,” Commissioner Green said. “In the end, this was a very difficult choice to make and all of these young students deserve recognition for their effort to raise awareness for missing children.”
Last year, New Jersey resident Pedro Hernandez was convicted in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Patz and sentenced to life in prison.
Saranika’s winning entry and all other posters submitted to the contest will be displayed at the Empire State Plaza Concourse in Albany during the week of May 21, to coincide with Missing Children’s Day.
New York’s contest also featured second- and third-place winners: Jason Rowe from Elba Central School in Genesee County came in second and Hannah Hollenbeck from Howard A. Hanlon Elementary School in Odessa was third.
Later this month, the National Missing Children’s Day contest will be judged and Chakraborty’s poster is qualified to win. The winning poster will be used to promote Missing Children’s Day nationwide.
There were 17,114 children reported missing across New York in 2017, and the majority of them were reported by police as runaways. Most of these children returned home last year, but more than 2,000 missing children cases remain unresolved.