Perhaps you are a parent or a sibling looking after a younger child, or a local teenager babysitting some neighbourhood kids. Perhaps you let the child play outside, or asked him/her to wait near the front door, or left him/her sitting happily in front of the television. Perhaps you were just in the next room, or on the next floor, or just outside in the garden. Regardless of the circumstances, if you ever return to find a child gone from where you left him/her, do not hesitate to report him/her as missing.
If you know in your heart that something is wrong, then act on this feeling – it will be better to be embarrassed when your child turns up a little while later than regret it if (s)he doesn’t.
Have a Good Look Around
If you have left your child in a safe place, or have only taken your eyes off of him/her for a few seconds, and return to find the child missing, it’s vital that you remain calm. Do not immediately assume that your child has been abducted, and have a good look around to see where they might be.
If you are at home, check each room individually and then have a look outside. If you are in a public place, think of a particular spot that your child may have wanted to go to (for example, the toy department of a big store) and have a look there.
If you cannot find your child in these logical places, or if you have spent more than just a few minutes looking, then alert the authorities immediately. If you are at home, call the local police first and then alert friends and neighbours to the situation. If you are in public place such as a shopping centre, alert the authorities there so that they can mount their own search, and quickly follow this with a call to the police.
Remember the Details
Though it may be tempting to scream to everyone that your child is missing, you’ll need to be more specific than this if you want to increase the likelihood that they are found. When you are reporting a missing child, be sure to mention details such as:
- Your child’s name, or any nicknames to which they might answer
- Your child’s age
- Your child’s height and weight
- Your child’s hair and eye colour
- What your child was wearing, including accessories such as hats or jewellery
- If your child was carrying anything (such as a backpack or a doll)
- Your child’s emotional state just before going missing. Was (s)he angry at you for any reason? Was (s)he exceptionally upset about anything?
- If anything new has been happening in your child’s life lately. Have they spoken of new friends or adults in their life? Have they been spending time online or received phone calls, texts or letters that you have not recognised lately?
Work with the Authorities
Once you have reported a child missing and supplied the police with all of the details that they require, be prepared to further work with the authorities as needed. You may be asked to provide the police with pictures of your child, you may be asked to show them his/her favourite items, and you may be asked to allow officers to view your home and your child’s room. In fact, the police may ask many things of you, including reasons that your child could have runaway from home.
Do not be offended if anyone suggests that your child has run away rather than has been abducted, and do not be offended if anyone suggests that perhaps your child has been Abducted By A Friend Or Relative. Remember, the more avenues that the police can discount the better, so help them shut down areas of inquiry to better help them concentrate on the more likely scenarios.
Reporting a missing child is an emotional experience, and many people hesitate to contact the police because they are afraid that the child may turn up soon and that they will have ‘bothered’ the authorities for nothing. If you find yourself faced with a missing child, remember to make this call as soon as possible. It will be better to bother the police for no reason than to wait and regret your hesitation later.