Your child is gone. It’s your worst nightmare. Would you know what to do if your son or daughter went missing? We’ve listed a few tips everyone should know.
What should I do if my child is missing?
- Contact your local police immediately
- Stay calm and ask family, friends and neighbors to help you
- If a small child is missing, start by looking in the immediate area and places where the child could be in danger, such as near ponds or canals, the street, a place where dangerous products are kept, and so on. Do this in a systematic way
- Keep in mind that small children sometimes hide somewhere and then fall asleep
- Children mostly run away with the sun in their back
What information will police need from me?
- Your child’s name, date of birth, height, weight and any medical condition
- A detailed description of the clothing worn by your child and the personal items he or she had at the time of the disappearance
- Personal identification marks, such as birthmarks, scars and tattoos
- A recent picture and one that shows identification marks
- Facts and circumstances related to the disappearance of your child, including what efforts have already been made to search for your child
- Details of places that your child often visits
- Telephone numbers, social media accounts of your child, a list of friends
Will police need photos of my child?
In most cases, police will ask you for recent photos of your child. Try to find several clear and recent headshots – ideally in color. If you have a photo of your child in the outfit they were wearing when they went missing, this will be very useful to investigating officers.
What else can I do to help police with their investigation?
- Police may need to collect items and material that can provide forensic evidence
- Do not wash or touch anything
- Highlight items that contain forensic material like DNA or fingerprints to the police. This is a precautionary measure but an important one
- Use an answering machine so you won’t miss a call if your child tries to reach you
- Leave an outgoing message on the answering machine for your child in case they call when you are not home
What else can I do to help find my child?
- Try to contact your child’s friends, or the parents of their friends
- Pass on contacts you have to other parents who may have information about your child’s whereabouts. Work as a team with the police
Where can I find help after the incident?
- The support of family and close friends can be valuable also after the incident. As the disappearance of a child can cause a lot of emotional distress, they can act as a contact point for police, school and your employer
- Approach a local victim support organisation. They can provide you with emotional support, as well as practical help and legal advice. See the website of Victim Support Europe for a victim support organisation in your area
What can I do to prevent my child from going missing?
- Make sure that your child knows that it should at all times ask one of its parents’ permission before he/she goes away with somebody, whether or not this person is an acquaintance of the child or not
- Make sure your children know their full name, address and a trusted person’s phone number (or have this information with them)
- Encourage your children to establish a network of trust consisting of people they feel safe to approach for help (friends/ neighbours)
- Encourage your children to seek assistance if they are in danger or if they feel unsafe
- Educate yourself about on-line risks and what safety measures are available for you and your children
- Encourage open conversation with your children so they tell you if they experience anything inappropriate
- Educate your children about how and where to find help if needed
- Encourage your children to inform you if their plans change
- Encourage your children to be aware of their surroundings and remember details of suspicious people they may encounter, such as what they looked like and what they were wearing.
- Educate your children to try to break free as quickly as possible and to attract as much attention from others as possible if they are forcibly abducted
- Talk to your children about what to do if they get lost regarding finding a trusted person or go to an information point
- If you are going to a new or busy place, agree a meeting point if they get lost
- Have an up to date photo on your phone, just in case
Prevention tips for children
- You’re not alone – there is always someone who will listen and help
- Make sure you let someone know if you change your plans
- It’s ok to say NO to anything that doesn’t feel comfortable or makes you feel scared
- If you’re in any danger or feel unsafe contact police or a trusted person
- Know how to walk or bike safely to and from school and where to find help if needed
- Always walk or ride your bike with a group of friends
- Never approach or enter a vehicle if someone stops to ask you questions
- If you’re alone at home don’t open the door or tell people you are home alone
- Know how to stay safe on-line
- Unfortunately, cases do occur where the child is directly taken and forcibly abducted. However, American research has shown that in a large number of these cases, children managed to escape by reacting swiftly and by resisting
- Try to resist as much as possible
- Try to break free and run away as quickly as they can
- Shout as loudly as possible and ask for help in order to attract attention