Losing sight of a child can cause a parentís heart to drop from their chest to the pit of their stomach. The first rule of thumb is do not panic. It is imperative that parents remain calm. Panicking gets nothing done and wastes valuable time. Before you do anything else, make a mental note of the time. As you begin searching for your child, stop and think about where you last saw him or her.
Begin by calling the childís name clearly and loudly, however, it is important to allow time for the child to answer, otherwise your voice may drown out the childís response. Think systematically while checking the surrounding area, including the front and side yards. Look inside any possible hiding places in the area. Physically open and look inside storage sheds, sun porches, storage boxes, toy trunks or other box type enclosures a child may have become entrapped inadvertently.
Children often will explore inside old appliances, including microwaves, refrigerators, and washing machines. Once inside one of these item the lid may close and the child may not be able to escape. This is why it is imperative to remove doors or lids from appliances when disposing of these items. This decreases the risk of asphyxiation if a child climbs inside.
Always check inside the family car and most importantly look inside the trunk if your child is missing. Children are fascinated with playing in and around the family car. Many parents fail to realize the lethality of the family vehicle when it is safely parked in their driveway or garage. Yet, cars can quickly become coffins if a child becomes trapped inside a trunk on a hot summer day. Think on the level of a small child and imagine where he or she may try to explore.
Never spend more than 5 or 10 minutes looking for a child before contacting 911 and notifying police that your child is missing. There is help available and if after 5 or 10 minutes you have not located your child then it is time to call in the authorities to help in the search. Call sooner if your intuition tells you, that something is wrong.
Once you report your child as missing the dispatcher will send help to your location. Remember that a police officer is trained to handle these situations and he or she knows what to look for to determine if there is the possibility, your child was abducted. In addition, he or she knows what steps to take to protect the crime scene, call for additional help and when to issue an AMBER Alert if needed.
When help arrives, provide officers with your childís full name, including any nicknames, their age, sex, and a general physical description, including height, weight, and hair and eye color. Describe the clothing your child was last wearing and include any individual identifiers specific to your child, like eyeglasses, hearing aids, or braces. Show officers a recent picture of your child and note any permanent identifiers such as birthmarks, scars, dimples, cleft palates, or other physical deformities.
An updated full-length, front facing photograph is the best tool you can provide to police while they search for your child. Children grow quickly and their appearance changes often throughout the years, so it is recommended parents photograph children a minimum of every three months. With the advancements in digital technology, maintaining current photographs of children is a breeze. To access these photographs quickly in an emergency designate an individual folder on your hard drive with your childís name or initials and place new pictures in the folder as you take them.
Remember when a child is missing time is the childís worst enemy. A missing child is a parentís worst nightmare. Do not hesitate to report a missing or lost child. Law enforcement would rather parents call them immediately when they notice a child is missing, and err on the side of safety.
The reason we have public services like fire, EMS, and law enforcement is to serve. They are there to help us in our time of need and receive special training to handle specific incidents, so be sure to use all the sources available to you in your community. A missing child is a priority in every community.