Have you ever been shopping at a local super store and suddenly realized your child is missing? Before panicking or spending a lot of time searching for your missing child on your own, locate a store employee, report your child missing, and ask the employee to implement the store's missing child protocol, or Code Adam. Code Adam is one of America’s largest child safety programs nationwide.
The Code Adam missing child program was founded in 1996 honoring six year-old Adam Walsh, who was the only child of John and Reve Walsh. When Adam disappeared from a Sears store in Florida in 1981 he had been shopping with his mom. Reve Walsh searched for her son for more than two hours before a store employee contacted the police. Two weeks later Adam’s head was recovered in a canal in Florida.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) the following six steps are implemented when a child is reported missing in a public place. First, employees obtain a detailed description of the missing child. Second and third, a Code Adam is announced overhead, including a detailed physical description of the child and what the missing child is wearing. Fourth, employees begin to monitor all of the store exits, check over-sized packages, and visualize every store aisle while calling the missing child's name. Fifth, if the missing child is not found within the first ten minutes of the search police are contacted. Sixth, if the missing child is located unharmed and foul play not suspected the child is reunited with family.
However, if the missing child is found with someone other than a parent or legal guardian, employees make reasonable efforts to stop the abductor from leaving the store with the child. Reasonable efforts mean the actions of stopping the kidnapper does not place the child, staff or customers at an increased risk of harm. Police are contacted immediately with a physical description of the child, kidnapper, vehicle involved, and the direction the kidnapper left.
When a Code Adam is activated the only way it can be canceled is if the child is found safe, or when law enforcement arrives to begin their investigation. Since, time is a missing child’s worst enemy, when a child is lost in a public establishment parents should not hesitate in finding an employee and activating a Code Adam or the establishment’s missing child protocol. By activating a Code Adam there are more people looking for the missing child, which increases the odds the child will be found quickly and safely.