Missing Children: Prevention and Action
More and more children go missing every day. It is important for parents to know how to prevent these situations and what to do should their child go missing.
An estimated 2,300 children are missing every day in the United States, according to Child Find of America Inc. Missing children can be victims of family abduction, non-family abductions, or they can be runaways.
Child Find of America offers a list of ways to prevent abduction, including educating your child about how to deal with strangers, teaching them how to call for help and taking head-and-shoulder photos at least once a year.
New Jersey State Police spokesman Lt. Stephen Jones stressed the importance of preparedness for parents.
"The lion's share of what parents and guardians can do to protect their children is going to come in the preparation, not in the period of time after they're missing," Jones said.
"That's going to be a lot of things, like making sure your children are accountable to you, that they're telling you exactly where they're going and that you know the places they're going; you know the parents of the kids they're going over to and have contact information for those parents. That stuff is really important. If you're sending your child out the door with a cell phone, most cell phones have GPS tracking ability. Make sure that is turned on in your child's phone."
Jones explained that preparation and communication with your child can be crucial in a situation where he or she may be missing.
"If the preparation work is done like that, then you will immediately be eliminating a lot of possibilities," he said.
"If your child doesn't show up at the agreed upon time, you're going to know that they should have called you and you're going to know the first couple of phone calls to make to places where they should be, or where they told you they were going to be. If they are not at those locations, then it's time to bring in the professionals."
USA.gov provides a A Family Survival Guide When Your Child is Missing. Some immediate actions to take include:
- Search anywhere a child could crawl into or hide and possibly be asleep or unable to get out.
- If you still cannot find your child, immediately call your local law enforcement agency.
- When you call law enforcement, be prepared to provide your child’s name, date of birth, height, weight, unique identifiers such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, braces, body piercings, tattoos and other key physical attributes.
- Ask law enforcement to enter enter the child’s information into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, known as NCIC. You may contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, known as NCMEC, at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) to verify information about your child has been entered into NCIC.
Jones confirmed the importance of these actions.
"If as a parent or guardian you feel like your child is legitimately missing, the first thing, and the only thing, you need to worry about doing is calling 911 - calling the police and getting the local police involved and then giving them as much information as you can possibly give them regarding the clothing, their whereabouts, what their habits may indicate that they may be doing. That's all critical information and it's most important to get that to the police in a timely manner."
Even more so, it is crucial that parents and families remain as calm as possible during what is undoubtedly a stressful time.
For more information, visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).