What to do if your child goes missing
It is our hope at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® that you will never need to know what it is like to have a missing child. However, we also know there is no such thing as too much preparation. Here are some first steps you should take if your child goes missing. For a more comprehensive checklist download our Missing-Child, Emergency-Response, Quick-Reference Guide for Families.
- Immediately call your local law enforcement agency.
- After you have reported your child missing to law enforcement, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678).
- If your child is missing from home, search through: closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside large appliances, vehicles – including trunks, and anywhere else that a child may crawl or hide.
- Notify the store manager or security office if your child cannot be found when in a store. Then immediately call your local law enforcement agency. Many stores have a Code Adam plan of action in place.
- Secure your child’s room and personal belongings until law enforcement conducts a search.
- Secure any computers and wireless devices used by your child, but do not attempt to conduct a search of these devices on your own. Ask law enforcement to look for clues in any chat and social-networking sites your child has visited or hosts.
- Have a photo of and information about your child ready to provide to law enforcement. For a full list of items and descriptive information to provide, visit www.missingkids.com/ChildID.
- Restrict access to the home, no matter where your child was last seen, until law enforcement has arrived and had the opportunity to search the home and surrounding area.
- Contact the National Runaway Safeline, if your child may have runaway, at 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929) or visit www.1800runaway.org for assistance including information about developing communication with your child.
- Stay in regular contact with law enforcement, the media, and local government officials during the search for your child.
- Notify law enforcement, NCMEC, and other agencies assisting in the search as soon as your child is located.