Children playing hide and seek is nothing new, but when your child disappears whether it’s from your home, your yard, their school, or in a store or a public place, like a park or shopping center, then it’s an urgent concern. The first thing to do if you are sure your child is missing–and it’s difficult for any parent or responsible person caring for a child when you become aware your child is actually missing–is to KEEP CALM! But you can’t think in a turmoil and you must think, about where and when you saw your child last. The next thing is ASK FOR HELP, from a neighbor, close friend, store manager or other authority present, and CALL 911.
If you are at home, check areas of greatest concern first, areas where a child could run into big trouble: closets, old appliances such as a basement refrigerator or freezer, under beds, in an automobile trunk or down in the seat well or backseat of a car. Check bathtubs, “hot” tubs, shower stalls, hampers, blanket boxes–anywhere your young child could fit or climb in to hide. Check the attic and/or the basement, if you have one, garage and storage areas as well.
If your child is missing from out of doors, after checking around the outside of the home, including shrubbery, outbuildings if any, and the street, call any possible playmates’ parents or babysitter(s) immediately. If you come up empty after a few minutes’ initial checks, then contact your local police department immediately: CALL 911.
Don’t wait. Minutes matter! Finding your child is often best left to professionals, they are trained to know where to look.
When reporting your child missing, provide a recent photo of your child to the authorities, so they know what the child they are looking for looks like. Make sure to provide them your child’s gender, height, weight, hair color and age on their last birthday and what your child was wearing when you saw them last, and if he or she has any particular noticeable physical traits or birthmarks or missing teeth. Provide any important information about health conditions, such as autism, Down syndrome, ADHD, or any current health issues. Provide the police with names of playmates, favorite outdoor play areas and your child’s habits and hobbies. If they ride their bikes, skateboards or scooters, where? Do they play in a wooded area or a school or community playground, or a vacant building lot? Are there ponds or swimming pools, rivers, lakes or any other bodies of water nearby, where they might go? It is very important that areas that could create extreme danger for a child be checked immediately. If you live in the city, nearby busy streets, abandoned buildings or vacant lots, public parks, school yards in or close to your neighborhood are such areas.
In a store or shopping center if your child is missing, immediately contact the store’s manager, inform them where you saw your child last and provide vital information and a recent photo of your child. The store manager will initiate a check of the immediate area and contact the police if the child is not found within a few minutes. With many people having cell phones and taking photos, it’s good to keep that recent photo of your child on your cell phone so you can download and send it easily to security and police personnel looking for your child.