When a child goes missing; essential steps a parent/guardian should take

Nothing is more nerve-wracking to a parent than when a child goes missing. Of the thousands of missing children reported annually, fortunately, the majority of missing person cases are resolved within hours. But gangs and criminal networks do groom and exploit children as part of their drug markets and so parents must take any missing child or young person seriously. We’ve prepared a guide on what you should do when you’ve lost a child.

Call the Police immediately

If you cannot locate your child and it is out of character for them to not be in touch with you or anyone else, you should immediately report your child missing to the police by calling 101 or 999 (if you are worried that they are in immediate danger). You do not need to wait 24 hours to report your child as missing.  Do not spend time looking for the child until you have alerted the police.  If you would prefer to make the report in person, you can find details of your local police station here – https://www.police.uk.

The police will provide you with an incident number and an officer will be sent out to your home address to take a missing persons report. Record the Officer’s name, collar number and ask for the details of who will be dealing with the matter.

Once you have reported your child missing to the police, they will make an assessment of the level of risk to them. Your child’s age and circumstances of their disappearance (e.g. whether or not they have been reported missing before) will dictate the level of investigation they undertake. This may include searching the areas where your child was last seen, reviewing CCTV footage, making attempts to contact them by phone or computer, checking local hospital admissions, checking associates’ addresses known to have been with previously.

It is sensible to reach an agreement with the police as to what you will do whilst they are conducting a search, to avoid duplication and how often you expect to hear from the Police and if you do not, how frequently you will contact them for an update.

Get ready to share your child’s information.

In the moment when you cannot find your child, it’s common to forget the basic information the police and safeguarding agencies may need. Be prepared to provide as much key information as you can, including the following:

  • Child’s full name.
  • Child’s weight/ height.
  • Child’s age and date of birth
  • Clothes the child was last seen wearing.
  • Identifying features, like glasses or a birthmark
  • Names and contact information of the child’s friends or close acquaintances.
  • Frequently visited places where they are known to hangout.
  • Any health issues the child may have.
  • Any other possibly relevant details about the time or place the child went missing.
  • Try to find several recent photographs that clearly display distinguishing characteristics.

Alternatively, you can use this template prepared by charity PACE (Parents Against Child Exploitation) to help you – http://paceuk.info/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Missing-event-template-Pace.docx.

Look in your immediate area.

Call, text, and message your child via mobile, social media or apps. Stay calm, show them you’re concerned and just want them home safe. If your child has social media accounts, they may have left some digital clues, but rather than digging through electronic records yourself, ask police to explore messaging histories and social sites.

Ask friends or family if anyone knows where they are.

Keep your phone close to you in case they contact you and check any other ways they may get a message to you.

Make sure someone stays at the house in case they come back.

If your child is found or comes home

Parents and carers must inform the police when their child returns home, as soon as possible. If you have any concerns that a crime has been committed, report it at the same time. The Police understand that many young people are coerced or exploited by others and they will see your child as a victim of exploitation rather than a criminal. It is likely that the Police will want to ask them questions about their experience and offer them support rather than arresting or detaining them. 

Remain calm, express relief and tell your child that you’re happy to have them home.  Calmly talk to your child about where they have been and the reasons they went missing. Let them know that you were worried and care about them and you want to work through any problems together. Try and create an environment where they feel listened to and supported. Make a note of any information they tell you for the police.

Get medical attention if they need it.

Preventative measures

Though kidnapping and abduction cases are rare, taking some preventive step will help you handle any situation.

Familiarise your family with the steps to take in the event that your child goes missing. Share this blog with them.

To minimize the risk of disappearance, discuss sharing locations with your children on their mobile phones e.g., use the ‘Find My’ App on iPhone  or Google’s Trusted Contacts app on Android phones

You can share your location between an iPhone and Android device by using Google Maps “Share your location” feature. (See – https://www.blog.google/products/maps/trusted-contacts-now-ios). Google Maps lets you send your exact location in a text message, which can be sent between iPhones and Android devices.

For iPhone – https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/icloud/mm1012797a39/icloud

For Android – https://www.blog.google/products/maps/let-your-loved-ones-know-youre-safe-our-new-personal-safety-app.

Ensure your children have an ‘in case of emergency’ (ICE) telephone number for you readily set up in their phone contacts so they can contact you at a moments notice.

If you are worried your child may be being exploited

To help local safeguarding teams or the Police, make a note of:

  • Any times your child goes missing.
  • Names, nicknames, ages and descriptions about people who concern you.
  • Car registrations, make, model, colour that may have been seen dropping off or collecting your child.
  • Phone numbers, profiles, usernames that your child is being contacted by on phones, apps, social media or games consoles.
  • Places your child talks about going to.
  • Dates and times when the things above may be happening.

Contact Waltham Forest Council’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) to discuss any concerns:

Posted by AskMe Admin