You turned your back for a minute or two, and your child has disappeared. You’ve tried calling your son or daughter at university, but it has been days without a response. According to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children, there were around 58,200 children who were victims of non-family abduction during the study year. A little over 50,000 adults are missing in any given year. In these moments, what can you do? How can you respond to a disappearance of a family member, friend or loved one?



Prevention will not eliminate all cases of abductions, but it will help minimize the risk your family and child face with regard to child abductions. There are a few easy things to teach your children in order to help prevent abduction. Teach your children: not to walk away with anyone other than a parent or a designated caregiver, do not respond if a stranger asks for your help and do not get into the care with strangers.

Parents have separate but equally important steps to take in order to minimize the risk of child abductions.

Parents should:LII Parents and children

  • Be observant
  • Know where your children are
  • Know who your children know
  • Pay attention to changes in your child’s behavior
  • Never leave your child alone in a public place, car, or stroller
  • Teach your child your telephone number and how to contact you and a close friend
  • Take frequent pictures of your child and always have a current one
  • Develop a family plan of how to respond in an emergency or crisis situation

Preventing abductions of adults is more dependent on the individual person being responsible and aware of their own situation. There are safety tips that you can follow in order to minimize your chance of getting abducted.

You should:

  • Be aware of your surrounding and be alert
    • Are you distracted by your phone? Are you in an unfamiliar area?
  • If you feel threatened in any way – call the police immediately
  • Know how to fight back
    • Use parts of your body not being restrained (use your feet if your arms are restrained, use your arms in your feet are restrained etc…)
  • If you can runaway, do so
  • Make noise in order to grab others attention



Over half of the children abducted by non-family members were missing for at least one hour. In child abduction cases, the first 48 hours are the most important. Make sure to contact your local police Emergency vehicle lightingdepartment as soon as you become aware your child is missing. The law requires law enforcement officials to investigate child disappearances within the first 24 hours. When the police arrive and begin asking questions, make sure to remain calm and answer their questions. Providing information to police is vital to the investigation, make sure you focus your energy on answering questions.

If the missing person is older than 18 years old, the police have to create a missing persons report once it has been reported. However, in the case of missing adults, if the person in question is not perceived to be at risk the police will most likely not give priority to that case. A person is believed to be “at risk” if: the person missing is the victim of a crime or foul play, requires medical care, does not have a history of running away, the victim of a parent abduction or is mentally impaired.

If the police are reluctant to create a missing persons report because the person in question is not believed to be “at risk”, but you are still concerned there are alternative options. Private investigators are an alternative option for investigating a missing person. PI firms can dedicate more resources to finding a missing person than a police department. Police departments have to devote resources to many different criminal investigations, whereas private investigators can devote their resources to only a few cases at a time.

Additional Help and Social Media.

There are various nonprofits that can be used as additional resources for dealing with missing persons. Non-profits can help spread information regarding a missing person, such as posting a picture on their website with information regarding said person’s disappearance. The more people that see your child or loved one’s face and information, the more people who can identify your child or loved one and contact police if they are spotted. Family members and loved ones can also create a public Facebook page to spread information regarding missing persons.LII - P | NCFMEC

Nonprofits and Organizations to Contact:

  • CUE Center for Missing Persons | (910) 343-1131, (910) 232-1687
  • Project Jason | (402) 932-0095
  • Let’s Bring Them Home |
  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children | 1(800) 843-5678