When Should I Report My Child Missing?

If you believe your child is missing, time is of the essence. The sooner you report your child missing to law enforcement, the greater the chance of finding them safe. Don’t follow the old myth of waiting at least 24 hours before filing a report. That is not true and could cost you valuable time.

There are a few different scenarios in which you should report your child missing:

The Child Has Run Away

If your child has run away from home, you should report them missing. You will know your child has run away if:

  • You find a note from your child saying they have left home.
  • Your child’s bedroom window is open and there are signs that they climbed out of it.
  • Their belongings are missing, such as clothes, money, or a favorite toy.

Abduction By Non-Custodial Parent

There have been many cases of a non-custodial parent taking their child without the other parent’s permission. Has the non-custodial parent recently threatened to take the child? Have they made any strange comments about abducting the child? If so, you should report your child missing right away.

The first sign of abduction by a non-custodial parent is a missed child custody exchange. If you are supposed to meet the other parent to exchange custody of the child and they don’t show up first contact the other parent. If they are unavailable or will not tell you where the child is, then call the police.

Other signs of non-custodial parent abduction include:

  • The child’s clothes or favorite belongings are missing
  • There is evidence that the other parent has packed for a long trip
  • The other parent has abruptly quit their job or sold their belongings
  • The other parent has changed their phone number after the abduction
  • The other parent has a history of making threats or taking the child without permission

Child Abduction by Stranger

Most child abductions are done by someone the child knows. However, stranger danger is still something to cause concern. Someone can kidnap your child from your home, their school, or anywhere in public. If you are out in public with your child, it only takes a second for them to wander off and get lost. It only takes a few more seconds for someone to grab them.

The best way to prevent your child from being abducted by a stranger is to never let them out of your sight. If you cannot be with them, make sure they are with someone you trust.

Don’t hesitate to contact authorities when a stranger abduction occurs. Provide as much information as possible.

Signs of stranger abduction include:

  1. Your child is missing and there is no note or evidence of their whereabouts.
  2. A car was recently driving erratically near where your child was last seen.
  3. A strange vehicle has been circling or parked in your neighborhood.
  4. Someone you don’t know was the last person seen with your child.
  5. Your child was last seen in an area known for crime or drug activity.

Child Abduction by Family Member

In some cases, a family member may abduct a child. This person could be a grandparent, aunt, or uncle who has a close relationship with the child. They may believe they are taking the child to protect them from something or someone.

Your Child Is Lost

Children can easily wander off and become lost, especially in crowded places. It only takes a few minutes for a child to get separated from their parent or guardian. If you cannot find your child in public, go to the nearest security office or store employee and ask for help. That person can enlist the help of others in the area to look for your child. 

The best way to prevent your child from getting lost is to never let them out of your sight in public.

When it comes to your home, keep doors and windows locked at all times.

Have a plan in place in case your child wanders off. That way, everyone knows what to do and who to call.

What To Do When Child Is Missing

If your child is missing from home, search for them there first. Search all your closets, under the beds, in the attic, and anywhere else they could be hiding.

Check with neighbors, friends, and family to see if they have seen or heard from your child. Ask neighbors to check their Ring or surveillance cameras for any signs of your child.

If you can’t find your child, call the police right away.

Ask the law enforcement agency to enter your child into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC)Missing Person File. It is a database of missing persons that can be searched by law enforcement nationwide.

What Happens After I Report My Child Missing?

Once you have reported your child missing, law enforcement will start an investigation. The first step is to determine if the child is truly missing or if they just ran away. If there is evidence that the child ran away, law enforcement may not always conduct a full-scale investigation.

If the police are not helpful, or if you feel like you are not getting the attention you need, several other organizations can help.

Missing Children Organizations

In addition to the police, you can contact various missing child organizations for help. Such organizations can provide advice, support, and resources to help find your child.

In conclusion, never let your child out of your sight in public and keep doors and windows locked at all times. If you believe your child has been abducted, call the police immediately and give them as much information as possible. Don’t forget to enlist the help of missing child organizations if local authorities are not able to promptly find your child.

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