Data from the National Runaway Safeline show that every seventh child between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away at least once.
If your child becomes part of these stats, you should call the police, ask them to enter your child in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and spread the word about their disappearance.
Call the police at once
Don’t wait – call the police as soon as you learn that your kid has run away. Tell them where they were last seen or where you think they might be. If there is a missing children clearinghouse in your state, ask the police to pass on the details about your kid. Keep records of any info the police provide you with.
Have the kid entered into the NCIC
The NCIC is a tool used by the FBI, which can be accessed by all law enforcement agencies. This electronic data clearinghouse provides an efficient way to locate missing persons. Ask your local police department to enter your child’s information in it and get their NCIC number. No waiting period to report a child for entry into the NCIC exists.
Call Child Find
You can get in touch with Child Find at 1-800- I-AM-LOST. When you open a case with this agency, you’ll be contacted by a caseworker who will help you find your child. They coordinate efforts with police and agencies on your behalf. Child Find caseworkers respond to questions and share referrals and resources with state agencies.
When your case is opened, the caseworker will ask if you want a missing child poster created. Child Find shares these posters on social media and with national media partners to raise awareness and get more people to search for your child.
Child Find includes each missing child’s NCIC number in the poster, so any tips or sightings can be connected to your child’s case at once. Parents of missing children who decide to share images online or create their own missing posters should always include the child’s NCIC number.
Tell the community
The more people know your child is missing, the easier the child will be to find. Spread the word in the community and ask people to look out for your child. Distribute missing child posters in the area and reach out to your child’s friends, school, and people else in their network for information about their whereabouts.
Social networks can help expand your reach. In fact, they’ve become one of the most effective tools to find a missing person. Some parents create Facebook groups or pages dedicated to the search for the missing child and ask for sightings and tips on their whereabouts. Others use their personal Facebook accounts.
Consider what you’ll say about the situation carefully because your child will probably see what you shared. Focus on your love and concern and avoid expressing negative emotions, even though you might be angry or hurt, and it’s totally understandable. The most important thing to show is that you will welcome your child with open arms when they come home.
Should you go out and look for them?
If your child has run away before, it might not be a good idea to go out and look for them. This reinforces their behavior. They need to know that if they run away, they have to find their way back. They should be aware that you’ll call the police instead of looking for them on the streets.
It’s understandable that parents want to make sure their kids are okay, but the child shouldn’t get special status or too much power. This way, they’re only being encouraged to run away again the next time they have a fight with their parents.
Don’t beg and plead with them. When they do come home, they’ll have more power. From that point on, they will play the runaway card whenever they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions or want something from you.
What to do when they come home
When they get back, ask what’s going to change about how they address their issues and what they will do the next time they want to run away. Have an honest conversation. They should realize running away only makes things worse. It’s not an effective way to solve problems. Most solutions that depend on control and power are ineffective.