my child is missing! what do i do?
Do you remember the last time your little one ran off in the supermarket while your back was turned?
Do you remember how your pulse quickened, and how that bitter taste appeared in your mouth as your body rushed with adrenaline?
Do you remember the panic starting when you realized your child is not in the neighboring aisle?
Probably not. The thing you probably remember most is the feeling of relief when you see her three aisles down with an open box of cereal. The only thing she remembers is Mommy crying and saying "Never do that again!" Some parents aren't so lucky. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 2,300 children go missing every day. While it is impossible to completely prevent the chance of your child going missing, it is easy to minimize the wasting of time in an investigation. Building and maintaining a comprehensive child ID kit will provide a wealth of knowledge to the police in an instant, at a time when it’s most important.
First and foremost, stay calm. Your child needs you. That means that no matter how hard it may seem, you have to keep a level head. Call the police, tell them everything you can.
Chances are, the police will come to you. Make sure the first thing you hand them is the ID kit. The moment they have this information, they can start the search. You’ll feel relieved that the police are looking for your child, rather than watching you look for a recent photo.
What information should be kept in an ID kit?
That depends on the age of your children, but here are some basics:
1. Recent Photograph - this is paramount
2. Physical description - keep this updated as the little ones turn into bigger ones!
3. Medical information - note any medications, conditions or other items the police may need to know
As our children get older, their lives get more complicated. They use Facebook, email, cell phones, and who knows what else!
Here are some important things to have for older children (and adults).
4. Cell phone number, wireless carrier, and the Mobile Equipment IDentity (MEID) of the phone
5. Passwords (email, social networking, video games)
6. Names and addresses of friends
If you have all this information, great! Now the question remains: what do you do with it?
Create a plan. Involve your close friends and family members. In the event that your entire family goes missing, all of that planning will do you no good if no one else knows where it is. Make sure to keep the access to information as limited as possible. You only need three to four allies to make your plan effective. If you involve more than that, there is the possibility that too many people will be involved, and the police will not know who to take the information from.
Make sure your information is readily accessible. Children are at risk at any time and at any place. If you build the most comprehensive kit in the world, it will not help if it’s locked in a safe deposit box at the bank, and your child goes missing on a Saturday evening. A portable kit can travel with you on vacation and can accompany your children on trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s.
Keep all this information up to date! People are surprised at the number of items that change in the course of a few years. The most important thing to keep updated is a photo. Make sure you either have it printed or on a digital file ready for sending. An emergency is not the time to learn how to send a photo from your phone. Other things that change are physical description (height, weight, hair length), contact information, and passwords.
As parents, we do everything we can to keep our kids safe. Unfortunately, even the best efforts can come short. There is no silver bullet that will prevent your child from going missing. Having a child ID kit will reduce the amount of time it takes to prepare for an investigation. This can save minutes, and potentially hours. Time is the most critical element when a child goes missing, and being prepared will allow you to focus on the most important thing – bringing your child home safe.
An advocate for missing children and adults, Jeremy Reynolds is the founder and CEO of IfIGoMissing.com (IIGM), an online portal providing users with a secure interface to store important. Inspired to help families and make a difference, he has helped further the industry of caregiving with the launch of IIGM. Taking a responsive approach in protecting loved ones, If I Go Missing helps families take care of those who matter most.
He serves as the state coordinator for Wisconsin for the Center for Search and Investigations (CFSI), a premier worldwide licensed investigators organization, whose goal is to assist and train families in facilitating the search and location of missing children. Jeremy also runs and operates Libby’s House, a group of assisted living facilities located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin specializing in seniors with memory impairment.