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Runaways and Missing Children
There is NO 24-hour waiting period
for reporting missing children under 18.
The first 48 hours are the most important
in locating your child.
Fifteen years ago, federal legislation was passed directing police to take reports immediately on any missing children under age 18, including runaways. Under the law, that information must be entered into the National Crime Information Center, a computerized database of victims and criminals maintained by the FBI. However, that doesn't mean police start to search immediately.
While police officers are required to take a report and assess every missing child case, only the children who are believed to be in danger or are under age 13 or mentally or physically disabled are automatically classified as "critical missing persons."
The Amber Alert is not intended for runaways or parental abductions except in life threatening situations and is intended only for the most serious, time-critical child abduction cases.
Dial 911 as soon as you suspect your child has disappeared and demand that a police report be filed immediately. When calling, be prepared to report your teen's name, date of birth, height, weight, identifying features such as glasses, braces, piercings, etc., and the clothes you last saw him or her wearing.
Record the officer’s name, badge number, telephone,
fax and report numbers. Ask who will follow up the initial investigation.
After you call the police, call the Sheriff's Department, state police, and police from adjoining jurisdictions. File reports, record the officers' names, badge numbers, telephone, fax, and report numbers.
Check with your child's friends, work, neighbors, relatives, or anyone else who may know of your child's whereabouts. Ask them to notify you if they hear from your child.
Go to your child's school, speak with teachers and staff, and go through your child's lockers and desks.
Find out if any of your child's friends are missing. They may be together.
Notify the local FBI office and have your child's description entered into the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer. Obtain the nine-digit NCIC number for your child's case.
Notify border patrols. Ask your local law enforcement agency or missing child agency agency to provide these numbers.
Check home computers for leads such as online contacts and details of a planned meeting.
Call missing children helplines, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST and Operation Lookout at 1-800-782-SEEK.
Call runaway hotlines if you suspect your teen is a runaway, such as the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-621-4000.
Notify your state's missing children information clearinghouse and other helping organizations.
Share information through social networks -- Facebook, Twitter, My Space, YouTube, etc. Post articles, photographs, blogs, videos. Interact with individuals and organization that can spread the word and help find your child.
Keep a record of everyone you contact, including date and time, name of person, organization, phone number, and information received.
Keep your home phone staffed and record conversations. This may be the only way your child knows how to reach you.
Close the door to your child's room and don't touch anything in there.
Find pictures of your child to use in the search. Choose photographs that are recent and realistic.
Check telephone bills for the past few months for any unfamiliar long distance calls.
Cooperate fully with the police and the media.
Contact runaway shelters in your area and in nearby areas and states. Give them your child's photograph. If your teen gives an incorrect name and age, it will help identify him/her.
Contact hospitals, abortion clinics, drug treatment centers, and counseling services in your area.
Leave flyers at youth hangouts, malls, and recreation centers. You can create, display, and print a Missing Person Flyer from your computer.
Offer a reward. The Carol Sund / Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation provides Missing Person-Criminal Apprehension Rewards of up to $10,000.
Hire a private investigator.
NEXT: Why Teens Run Away
Hotlines and Helplines
1-800-387-7962 24 Hour
1-800-661-6160 24 Hour
1-800-THE-LOST 24 Hour
1-800-621-4000 24 Hour
1-800-782-SEEK 24 Hour
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