In my work I have helped recover many missing children. In most cases their parents didn’t expect them to go missing, but they did. Most are returned relatively unscathed; some are not. The most important factor that results in a good outcome is the speed of response. According to a 2006 study, Case Management for Missing Children Homicide: Report II, the murder of an abducted child is rare. An estimated 100 such incidents occur in the U.S. each year. The study indicated that 76.2 percent of abducted children who are killed are dead within the first three hours.
Preparation makes a great deal of difference in the speed of recovery of a child. As a public service I’ve participated in programs to provide this in the form of missing child ID kits. I was disappointed and perplexed by the very low number of parents who will create a kit, or allow one to be created, even if it’s free. I surveyed parents in a busy shopping area in which we were offering the kits. A majority stated that they didn’t want a kit for their child because they didn’t want to think about them going missing.
Just as we would prepare for a storm or earthquake that we hope never will hit, and we have insurance on our cars, houses and health, we should prepare for the possibility that our child may go missing, even for a short while. Time is critical and a kit can save a lot of time. Our children are our most valuable possessions, and fortunately we can get a form of “insurance” that, if missing, gives them the best possible chance of being recovered unharmed. If you feel uncomfortable creating a kit, imagine how you will feel if you don’t, and your worst fears are realized.
A kit is not hard to compile on your own, or many communities have organizations offering the service. For your and your child’s privacy you will keep your kit yourself; it is not on file outside your home. Kits generally consist of fingerprints, photos, a form with identifying data, doctor and dental information, DNA samples and the like. Most are free or very low cost. They are invaluable to police in finding missing children quickly and safely. They are not just for identifying bodies; a child may have left a trace, a hair, a fingerprint, that will allow police to find them more quickly, before they are harmed.
Some good resources are:
- The National Child Identification Program. This kit is recommended by the FBI. A great feature is a wallet card with basic information and a thumbprint. It allows law enforcement to get started while you retrieve your more complete kit. Cost is $9.95
- Child Safe Kit offers a free one.
- How to do one yourself at home National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.