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For Immediate Release: 4/8/2021

Kirstan Conley | kirstan.conley@dcjs.ny.gov
(518) 457-8415 | (518) 424-3255 
Press Office, New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

Fifth-grade Pupil from Brooklyn Wins New York’s Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest

Milani Rodriguez’ Poster Will Represent New York State in National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest

All New York State Entries Will Be Displayed on the Division of Criminal Justice Services Website

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green today announced that a fifth-grade pupil from Brooklyn has been chosen as the winner of the state’s annual Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest.

POYA photo
Milani Rodriguez’s first-place poster, which is representing New York State in the National Missing Children's Day Poster Contest, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice.
POYA photo
First-place winner Milani Rodriguez and her teachers.

Fifth grader Milani Rodriguez created the winning image, which features a little girl with pigtails holding a stuffed animal and looking out a window at teardrop-shaped rain falling on a gray landscape and an empty road. Hearts and broken hearts dot the letters “i” in messages reading, “Bring Our Missing Children Home!” and “I miss you. Please come home!”

Ten-year-old Milani’s drawing will be entered into the National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest, an annual competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). New York and other states coordinate their own contests, and the state winners compete against each other in the national contest. The winner of the national competition will be announced later this month, and the poster will be used to promote National Missing Children’s Day, which is May 25.

“We congratulate Milani for her heartfelt depiction of the loss that families feel when a loved one is missing," Commissioner Green said.​ "Her entry, and her description of it, highlights an important issue and exemplifies empathy toward others. We thank her and all of the contestants across New York State for sharing their artwork and devoting their artistic abilities to raising awareness about missing children.”

Milani, who attends P.S. 176 in Brooklyn, described her artwork, saying that it “shows a girl looking out the window on a rainy day, longing for her sibling to return.”

“She misses her older sibling who has gone missing for years, Milani wrote. The family portrait on the wall shows the girl was only a baby when they took their family picture. I want to spread awareness that many families are incomplete because loved ones are missing. We need to be good neighbors to each other and protect our children.”

The New York State Missing Persons Clearinghouse, located at the Division of Criminal Justice Services, sponsors the state’s contest. Clearinghouse staff received 24 submissions, all of which met the criteria for the contest, and removed the artists’ names and schools they attend before sending the entries to three judges for evaluation. In addition to Commissioner Green, Schenectady Police Department Youth Aid Detective Kristin Florell, who investigates missing and runaway juveniles and criminal cases involving children under 18; and Angel Lopez, whose daughter, Jeanetta Lopez, has been missing from Albany since December 2019, served as judges.

The judges also selected second- and third-place winners: Persephone Chan, from P.S. 130 in Manhattan, and Isobel Salaff, from P.S. 130 in Manhattan. The three winning posters will be displayed alongside all other qualifying entries on the DCJS website.

The state and national poster competitions are designed to raise awareness and educate the public about unresolved missing children cases. As of 2020, there were 11,307 children reported missing across New York State, a 17.1-percent decrease compared to 2019. Of those, an overwhelming majority were reported as runaways. While more than 62 percent returned home, 1,490 children were still missing at the end of last year.

May 25 was designated National Missing Children’s Day in 1983 to mark the four-year anniversary of the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, who vanished on his way to school in New York City. His disappearance gained national publicity and created a groundswell of attention to the plight of missing children. The case went unsolved for decades until a New Jersey man confessed, was convicted, and received a life sentence of imprisonment for kidnapping and murder.

The Missing Persons Clearinghouse assists law enforcement agencies by providing training, case management guidance and investigative support, such as 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.

New Yorkers can register with New York Alert to receive notifications whenever Missing Child, AMBER, Missing College Student, or Missing Vulnerable Adult alerts are activated. Anyone with an existing New York Alert account can update their profile to receive these alerts.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training; collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state’s DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; funding and oversight of probation and community correction programs; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.