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Today is National Missing Children's Day, a day that not only celebrates the hope that missing children will return, but also acts as a reminder of the many cases that sadly remain unsolved.
Being aware of the issue, and knowing what to do if a child goes missing, are two ways you can help.
Here are some facts and tips about missing children that every adult should know:
800K Children Reported Missing
Although child abductions generally garner the most headlines, there are many reasons why children go missing, including running away, wandering as a result of autism, and becoming a victim of sexual exploitation. The most recent estimate of missing children, reported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children showed:
Talk With Your Child About Crime
Although it may be uncomfortable, talking to your child in an age-appropriate manner about crime will help them protect themselves in the event they are the victim of an attempted kidnapping or other crime. Try to encourage your children to be comfortable telling you when they may have broken the rules (such as riding their bikes further than allowed, talking to strangers) as this may alert you to possibly dangerous situations.
Know When, How, and What to Report
In the event that your child goes missing, immediately report it to the police. Unlike what you usually see on television, there is typically no waiting period for reporting a missing child.
Make sure to keep updated color photos of your children, as well as recent measurements of height and weight as these will be essential for police. If there are circumstances that make the search more dire, the police will respond accordingly, such as by issuing an AMBER alert.
Hopefully you will never have to experience having a child you love go missing. But even if you don't, others in your community probably will. For more information of what you can do to prevent missing children and help the families of those children already missing, the National Center for Exploited Children offers many helpful resources.