Do you know what to do if your child is missing? First, remain calm. Second, search the immediate area. If the child was in the backyard, look through the entire backyard. Next, check the front yard. While searching, yell the child’s name loudly and clearly. Check storage sheds, sun porches, boxes or any enclosed areas the child may have become entrapped. Especially important is to check inside cars, including the trunk. Children will play in and around cars. They often become trapped inside cars, and unable to escape, have died right in the driveway of their home, as family member’s frantically search for them. Check anywhere a child can crawl into, or hide, under piles of leaves, laundry, old refrigerators, cars, closets, under beds and cars.
Do not spend a longtime searching on your own. If your instinct tells you, that something is not right, then call authorities immediately, and report your child missing. They will send an officer to your location. The officer will help you look for your child. The officer knows what to look for to decide if there is the possibility of abduction, and knows what steps to take to preserve the crime scene and to alert the media and authorities to issue an Amber Alert.
When a child is missing, time is the greatest enemy, especially if abduction involved. Amber alerts are responsible for providing information about the abduction including a detailed description of the child, the abductor, and the abductor’s car. The Amber alert came about in response to the community outcry honoring the legacy of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman kidnapped and brutally murdered in Arlington Texas, in 1996. In 2003, the Amber alert became a National program when President Bush signed the legislation. From January 2005, Amber alerts have helped recover 241, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Website.
When you call the authorities or when the police officer arrives, tell them your child’s full name, any nicknames used, age, date of birth. Give them a general physical description, including height, weight, and hair and eye color. Most importantly, note any permanent identifiers like, birthmarks, scars, dimples, cleft palates, and physical disabilities. Describe the clothing your child was wearing and include any unique identifiers specific to your child, like eyeglasses, hearing aids, or braces. When did you notice the child missing, where did you last see them and how long has it been.
A recent full-length and front facing photograph is the best tool you will be able to provide law enforcement in the search for a missing child. With the arrival of digital cameras, technology is becoming easier to keep our children’s pictures up-to-date and current and on file. Children grow and change quickly I recommend you take a new picture of a child every three to six months if possible. Keep the picture in a file on your computer labeled with each child’s name.
Include a file on each child, which describes the child physically, and write down identifying moles, freckles, birthmarks, and scars. My daughter has a mole on her left buttock and a scar on her right thumb where she would scratch out of nervousness. My son has a mole on the bottom of his left foot and a café-au-late spot (birthmark) on his neck in the front the size of a quarter. As kids get older, update the file with new scars or pierced ears as they happen.
When the officer completes his questions, ask your child's information sent on to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File. After you have reported your child missing to local law enforcement, it is important to call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The NCMEC has a toll-free telephone number 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) and can help provide national exposure for your child’s Amber alert missing information.
Law enforcement officials would rather parents call as soon as they realize 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 have special training to handle specific incidents, so be sure to use all the sources available to you in your community. Remember if a child is missing, time is a child’s worst enemy. A missing child is a parent’s worst nightmare. Never give up hope and never stop looking for your child no matter how much time passes. Recently a young woman escaped from her capture that had held her for 8 years in his home.