Missing Persons Clearinghouse
1-800-FIND-KID (1-800-346-3543)

Reacting to a Missing Child, Abduction or an Attempt

In Advance - Generally.

Keep a complete, up-to-date written description of your child, including:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Hair color/length
  • Eye Color
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Specific Physical Attributes: Braces, Scars, Birthmarks, etc


Make it a daily habit to know what your child is wearing.

Carry color photographs of your children.

  • Head and shoulder portraits such as those taken by school photographers, are preferable.

Make sure your dentist prepares full dental charts of your child and updates them with each exam.

  • If you move, get a copy of these dental records to keep in your files until a new dentist is found.

Find out from your doctor where your child's medical records are located.

  • All permanent scars, birthmarks, broken bones, and medical needs should be recorded.

Arrange with your local police department to have your child fingerprinted.

Keep a list of names, telephone numbers and addresses of:

  • Your child's school and teacher(s).
  • The school transportation coordinator (bus drivers see alot).
  • All of your child's friends and their parents.
  • Your child's workplace, if applicable.
  • All family members and relatives.
  • Babysitters.
  • Non-custodial parent or birth parent, if either is applicable.

Child leaning on beach ballSecure and store a scent article.

  • Have your child remove a piece of clothing that he or she has been wearing all day and have the child place it in a clear plastic bag.
    • Use a "zip lock" bag and tightly zip the edges so that no air escapes.
    • The article will be effective for an extended period of time if the bag is properly sealed.
  • Do not allow anyone but the child who wore the article of clothing to touch it or the bag.
  • The bag should be labeled "scent article enclosed". The name of the child and the date of storage should be included.
  • The bag should be stored in a location in the home where it is easily accessible to parents, but not in the reach of children.
  • Do not allow the bag to be punctured or opened. If this occurs for any reason, repeat the process.
  • The success of a search by trained dogs is very much dependent upon the scent article.

Give some thought about what you would do if your child disappeared. Have a plan of action.

Actions to Be Taken When a Child is Missing - No Immediate Indication of Abduction or Attempt.

Upon determining that your child is missing:

Follow your plan. The sooner the search begins, the better the chances for recovery. Immediately:

Conduct a brief, but thorough search of all out-of-the way places, including:

  • Closets.
  • Swimming Pools.
  • Attics.
  • Appliances (include unused refrigerators).
  • Basements.
  • Vehicles (even if locked; incluse trunks).
  • Crawl spaces.
  • Shrubs, bushes, trees.
  • Garages/Sheds.
  • Others.
  • Streams/Ponds.

Call the people on your list.

Promptly call the police if you are unable to locate your child within a few minutes.

  • Provide the police department communications specialist with all available details.
  • Gather previously mentioned information (e.g., photographs) while waiting for the police to arrive; present it to them when they arrive.
  • Continue to contact neighbors and child's friends to determine if they have any pertinent information.

Actions to Be Taken When a Child is Missing - Abduction Suspected or an Attempt.

Picture of empty swingUpon determining that your child has been abducted or an attempt has occured:

  • Gather and note all available details.
  • Call the police immediately.
  • Provide all details to the police department communications specialist during the initial call.
    • This allows the police to react in a much more effective and coordinated manner.
    • In turn, the likelihood of recovering the child quickly and safely (and apprehending the perpetrator) is increased dramatically.
Details Include:

Name and description of the child involved.

  • If abduction has occurred, provide details regarding the child's:
    • Age.
    • Build.
    • Gender.
    • Race.
    • Hair color/length.
    • Clothing.
    • Other characteristics (including a description of the child's bicycle, if applicable).
  • Description and/or identity (if known) of the perpetrator.
  • Description of the vehicle involved, if applicable.
    • Make.
    • Color.
    • Model.
    • License plate (number and state).
    • Unique damage or markings.
  • Direction of travel when last seen.
  • Time when last seen.
  • Any other details or observations, whether you believe that they are relevant or not.
  • Try to keep all witnesses or other persons with information available, so that they can be interviewed by the police when they arrive.
  • If they're unable to wait, ensure that you get all of the information that they have to offer and their names and telephone numbers.

Even if the abduction attempt is unsuccessful, call the police immediately. Why?

  • This is very likely not the perpetrator's first attempt.
  • Apprehension as the result of an unsuccessful attempt may:
    • Allow police to close previously unsolved cases.
    • May preclude the individual from making additional attempts in the future, perhaps successful attempts - It may literally save another child's life.