Searching for a missing child is terrifying. There’s no way around that. At the same time, it is important to maintain your focus so that you can be effective. Reach for positive coping skills and supportive people in your life to assist you in maintaining your ability to conduct an effective search.


If your child has disappeared from home, make a quick but thorough search of the immediate area, including favorite hiding spots. Check outdoors and with neighbors, as well as with your child’s neighborhood friends.

If your child has disappeared in a public place like a store or a mall, contact security and the store manager. Give them a physical description of your child including what s/he is wearing – ask them to begin a search. Also, ask them to post an employee at every exit to make sure that your child does not wander out of the area.


When you are satisfied that your child is not in the immediate area, call the police and tell the dispatcher “My child is missing, I need to make a report.”

If they dispatch an officer to you, stay exactly where you told the dispatcher you’d be, so the officer will be able to find you when they arrive. If you have a landline at home, make sure there is someone to monitor that phone in case anyone calls with information on your child.


Find or obtain a spiral notebook, and begin to record all details as they happen. Write down notes on who you talked to, the date and time, and the general idea of what was said in the converstaion. Make notes on tasks and who did them, as well as where flyers were distributed, and any other details.

Being the searching parent is extremely stressful. You will appreciate having these notes to helpyou keep trak of vital contacts, tasks, and information.

Whenever possible, delegate note-taking duties to someone you trust to be accurate and thorough. Keep the log book near you, so that no information is missed.


You will need to email or text copies of the photo to police, searchers and missing child agencies. Try to locate several photos, with a mix of portraits and and full-body photos. Make sure that these photos are in standard file formats such as .PNG or .JPEG so that they can be easily used by police and other search agencies.

Ideally, choose photos with no filters, and where the child’s features are easily visible and give a realistic representation of how the child appears.

If your child has had a portait taken at school, Lifetouch will be able to provide Law Enforcement with a copy of your child’s school portrait if you cannot locate a suitable photo.

Lifetouch – 1-877-689-4056

During the next few hours stay in one place, where you can be easliy reached. Your first urge will be to go out and search for your child, but you need to stay in one place so that police, searchers, your child or anyone else with information can easily contact you. If you haven’t already done so, contact family members, friends and neighbors to help with the search. Record the names and contact information of all volunteers in your log book.


Call Missing Children Minnesota or the missing children’s organization nearest to you to register your missing child. Most missing children’s organizations can help with poster preparation, contacting the media, logistics, emotional support, etc.

It is also important to register your child with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-THE-LOST.


Over the next few days, stay in touch with police, your Missing Children Minnesota Family Supprt person, and your NCMEC Case Manager to keep everyone updated on the situation. Make sure you take notes about what is happening and what the police tell you. Don’t try to rely on your memory when you are in a crisis. Make sure that your phone is always on, and take care to maintain a full charge. Pack an extra cord and brick along with you when you go out, and consider purchasing a spare battery if you do not already have one.

Allow yourself to rest fully by asking a trusted friend or family member to monitor the phone for you while you sleep, eat or rest.


Make sure the volunteers who will be in your home are people you feel comfortable with. Surround yourself with people you trust, who are supportive, and above all positive and calming personalities.

Ask someone to help you contact family members, friends, church and community groups for help and support. Ask this person to keep records of those involved with search activities and their contact information.

Volunteers can assist with flyer distribution, running errands, participating in phone trees and other methods of communication, planning gatherings or vigils, etc.

Keep such activities as creating fundraising events, tasks inside your home, or similar activities to close and highly trusted individuals.

It’s also important for you to get as much rest as possible. Volunteers can take over for you from time to time so that you can take care of yourself.

Remember, your child will need you to be physically and emotionally strong when they return home. When you sleep, eat, or delegate tasks to others, you are doing it to stay strong for your child.


Distribute posters and keep in touch with police and Missing Children Minnesota (and any other agencies that you have contacted) on a regular basis.

Change your voice message to include the information that you accept collect calls, in case your child needs to call you collect. You may also want to leave a short personal message for your child should they call.

Your family may benefit from professional support to get therough the tough times. This is an extremely stressful ordeal, and extra support such as family counciling can make a big difference for everyone involved.

Make plans for when your child is found, such as contacting insurance and your county government to see what services are available to help your child when they come home. Talk to your employer about the possibility that you may have to travel suddenly if your child is located in another region of the country, or that you may need short term leave in order to help your child when they are found.

Identifying resources ahead of time can be very helpful in getting the reunification of your family off on the best possible footing.


Call police and missing children’s agencies to close your child’s case. Take the posters down. Follow through with the plans you made for what to do when your child comes home, and continue to use your support system and positive coping skills as you welcome your missing child back into the family.

Be patient with yourselves and each other. This experience has changed you, but you can grow through it together.

Be prepared for a missing child emergency!

Put together an ID folder for your child (such as the one available form Missing Children Minnesota). Establish a plan for your family in case you become separated at a store or an event away from home. Teach your children (and periodically review with them) how to respond to threatening situations. For more information about keeping kids safe, contact Missing Children Minnesota at (612)334-9449 or 888-RUN-YELL.


If an estranged/former spouse or a domestic partner abducts your children, CALL THE POLICE! Tell them that you believe they are in violation of Minnesota state statute 609.26 (most states have a similar statute parental kidnapping is a felony in all 50 states!) Many law enforcement officers are unfamiliar with this law so don’t be reluctant to mention it to them. Under Minnesota law, it is a crime for a parent to take a child, even if they have joint custody, or if custody has not yet been determined.