What to do if your child is missing; National Missing Children’s Day shines light on child safety

Act immediately if your child is missing

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Today is National Missing Children’s Day, a day dedicated to encouraging parents, guardians and caregivers to make child safety a priority.

Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Missing Child’s Day on May 25, 1983, on the fourth anniversary of Ethan Patz’ disappearance.

Etan Patz’ disappearance

Etan Patz, 6, was walking to school in New York City when he disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979.

He didn’t make it to school and wasn’t reported missing until he didn’t return home that evening.

When his mother alerted police, more than 100 police officers searched for him. He was never found. He was declared legally dead in 2001.

In 2017, Pedro Hernandez, a former store clerk who worked near the Patz home in 1979 was found guilty of Ethan’s kidnapping and murder.

Murder of Adam Walsh

Adam Walsh, 6, was abducted from a Florida shopping mall two years later on July 27, 1981.

His abduction followed a “thunderstorm of media attention” around missing and abducted children.

It also created a heightened awareness of “stranger danger” and the iconic milk cartons displaying photographs of young people who had disappeared.

His severed head was found two weeks after he disappeared. His father, John Walsh, became a victim advocate and the host of the show “America’s Most Wanted.”

What to do if your child is missing

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has some advice on what you should do if your child is missing.

The first thing you should do is call your local law enforcement agency. After you contact your local police, you can call the NCMEC at 1-800-843-5678.

If your child is missing from home you should look through closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside large appliances, vehicles - including trunks and anywhere else that a child may crawl or hide.

If your child is missing in a store you should notify the store manager or security. If your child cannot be found in the store then call the police. Many stores have a Code Adam plan of action.

When you contact the police you will want to provide them with your child’s name, birthday, height, weight and other unique identifers (eyeglasses or braces). Tell them what your child was wearing and when you noticed your child was missing. You can ask police to immediately enter your child’s information into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center Missing Person File.

Click here to view more resources from NCMEC.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is tasked with providing guidance and resources to address youth victimization, including missing and exploited children.

It partners with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), an organization founded in 1984 by Adam Walsh’s parents, Revé and John, and other child advocates.

NCMEC receives around 5 million calls related to missing and exploited children on the national hotline. It has circulated billions of photos of missing children and helped law enforcement recover more than 319,000 missing children.

OJJDP also funds the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program (ICAC). It’s a network of 61 regional task forces that investigate technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation.

Click here to learn more

Read: Michigan cold case coverage

Why is ClickOnDetroit covering so many cold cases?

We’re working to bring attention to as many unsolved and missing persons cases from around the state as we can. Our hope is that getting this important information out to the public will help generate tips for investigators and potentially lead to closure for the affected families. If you have a cold case you’d like us to look into, please let us know by using the form below.

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.