Every 40 seconds someone’s child is reported missing, totaling over 800,000 missing children in the U.S. each year. Whether you are in a crowded mall, amusement park or even your own yard, turning around and not seeing your child induces instant panic. There are steps parents can take to help shorten the time it takes to locate their child should he or she ever go missing, ways to educate children on how to stay safe and now even technology that can help you locate a missing child in a matter of moments.
Accidentally being separated from their parents can be a traumatic experience, especially for young children. Children can momentarily be distracted and become lost in a store or at a park. Teaching your children simple and safe ways to help them find their way back to you can help keep them calm. Taking the time to show your children where the Customer Service desk is at stores, how to recognize store employees and to look for other moms or dads to ask for help if they ever get separated can help shorten the time it takes for you to be reunited.
It is also a good idea to begin practicing memorizing last name, address, home phone and cell phone numbers with your children at a young age, by turning them into a rhyme or pneumonic device. Keeping a current photograph on hand either digitally in your phone or as an actual print out that you keep in your purse or wallet can also help you find children faster.
Depend on Technology
Parents might also want to consider renting or purchasing a GPS locator for their children that can notify you if your child leaves home and allows them to send you an SOS message if they are in danger. A GPS locator like the SecuraPAL Guardian from SecuraTrac (link below) can send parents email or text messages if their child leaves a certain location like home or school and can be used to pinpoint a child’s exact location should he or she ever go missing.
Remain Calm and Search
Fear can easily overwhelm all other senses, including your ability to process information logically when you think your child may be lost or missing. It is very important to take a few seconds and take a few deep, calming breaths. Panicking can inhibit your ability to accurately provide information such as your child’s height, the clothing they were wearing, etc. to authorities and can also cause you to potentially miss important indicators to your child’s possible location. Before taking any other steps, you will also want to clear your mind so you can perform a thorough search of your surrounding areas, including places a small child might fit that you might not typically think to search such as clothes dryers, crawl spaces, behind clothes and storage boxes in closets and any other location in which your child could be hiding or trapped.
Once you determine that your child is definitely missing, notify the authorities for help. Notify local law enforcement and the media and report where they were last seen, what they were wearing and other key pieces of identifying information.
After contacting law enforcement you will also want to inform the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) of your child’s disappearance. You can contact them on their toll-free telephone number: 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). You’ll also want to report your child’s disappearance to the missing-child clearinghouse in your state. You can find this number in local telephone listings, by asking for it from NCMEC or by visiting www.missingkids.com/lawenforcement and clicking on the “Missing-Child Clearinghouse Program” link.
Alert the Media
Contacting your local media can also be an important factor in the search for your child. You will want to make every effort to obtain local and national media attention regarding your child’s disappearance to raise awareness and increase the number of people looking out for you child.