Before doing anything else, contact your local police immediately. You might have heard that you need to wait 24 hours before reporting a missing person, but the waiting period is a myth. In fact, taking action within the first 48 hours is crucial to bringing a missing loved one home.
When speaking with police, you will be asked to provide basic information about your loved one, including their date of birth, height, weight, hair color, and eye color. Tell them any identifying features that your loved one may have, such as scars, birthmarks, braces, or eyeglasses, and share any medical circumstances that your loved one may have. They will also need to know where and when your loved one was last seen, and what clothes they were wearing at that time. Find a recent photo of your loved one to give to the police and make copies for local police, the media, and missing children’s organizations.
Having your loved one’s vital information, medical records, and recent photos on hand makes a tremendous difference in emergencies—both for you and for law enforcement.
2. Ask Police to Enter Your loved one Into the NCIC
The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is an electronic clearinghouse of data that can be accessed by virtually any criminal justice agency. It is an essential tool in locating missing persons. Ask your local police to enter you loved one’s name and information into the NCIC Missing Person File (also known as filing a Missing Child Report) and obtain the name and contact number of the officer assigned to your case. Child Find includes NCIC numbers in the missing person posters we create so that any sightings of or tips about your loved one can be instantly linked to your loved one’s case. If you decide to create your own missing posters or images, don’t forget to include your loved one’s NCIC number.
Remember, there is no waiting period for reporting a loved one missing or for entry into NCIC.
3. Search and Secure Your Home
Small children have been known to go temporarily missing from parents in their own homes. Carefully look inside closets and cabinets, under beds, behind furniture and large appliances, and in their favorite hide-and-seek places. If relevant, search under vehicles, decks, or porches, and in outdoor play areas.
If your child was not found in your home, secure your home and limit family and friends’ access if they are assisting in your search. Law enforcement may find clues to your child’s whereabouts in your home so do your best not to disrupt anything, especially in your child’s room and/or play area.
4. Practice Self-Care
Although it can feel impossible to remain calm in these types of situations, maintaining your composure is the best thing you can do to bring your child home. Your caseworker and local law enforcement need you for their investigation so they can bring your child home safely.
If you find yourself struggling, let your caseworker know; in addition to location services, they are trained in providing emotional support and guidance to parents of missing children.