In Brief

When Your Child Is Missing:
A Family Survival Guide
Across Our Desk

Each year an estimated 900,000 children are reported missing. Most of them have run away or have been abducted by family members. Some of these children return home safely. Others are found murdered. Some never return home.

When a child is missing, the family is suddenly thrust into a life of fear, chaos, confusion, and isolation. Many families do not know where to turn for help. They do not know whom to call, when to call, how to respond, what to do first, or what to expect. Most families feel that they have been left to their own devices.

Cover-When Your Child Is MissingEarlier this year, OJJDP's Missing and Exploited Children's (MEC) Program1 convened a working group to address this critical need for information. Parents of missing children, law enforcement professionals, representatives from State missing children clearinghouses, and staff of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children helped compile information families need so that it can be available when they need it most. Written by those who have experienced and witnessed firsthand the trauma of a missing child, When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide contains specific guidance to help parents weather the initial crisis and endure the long-term pain.

The Guide is meant to remove some of the mystery and fear that accompany a child's absence. It tells families what they can expect when their child is missing and how they can build positive, solid working relationships with law enforcement, the media, volunteers, and others. It also gives parents and family members practical ideas and specific recommendations on how to cope during this traumatic time. Each section examines both short-term and long-term issues and includes a checklist and summary for later reference. These features make it easy for the reader to locate or return to material on specific topics.

Because the first 48 hours are the most critical in finding a missing child, the introduction discusses what parents should do immediately after discovering that their child is missing. The next seven sections focus on various aspects of the search for -- and recovery of -- the missing child. The first two sections describe the different types of searches and stress the need for close cooperation with law enforcement. The next two are devoted to the dissemination of information and photographs of the missing child. The fifth and sixth sections address the role of volunteers and the use of rewards and donations. The final section looks at personal and family considerations. Other helpful features include recommended readings; a list of additional resources, including phone numbers and contact information; and profiles of the parent authors.

Families' lives are turned upside down by the tragic loss of a child. In the Guide, parents who have lost a child reach out with both advice and encouragement to help families survive this terrible ordeal. The Guide provides parents with essential information and resources at a time of great need and confusion and offers encouragement to families as they continue to search for their missing children.

1The MEC Program provides leadership and support for programs, activities, and initiatives on behalf of America's missing and exploited children.

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Juvenile Justice Journal   ·   Volume V   ·   Number 1   ·   May 1998