Sadly, about one million children are abducted, or go missing, each year in the United States. It is important that children are educated on the steps they can take to help keep them safe when they are away from caregivers.

What to Teach Your Child

  • Clarify the difference between strangers and the adults who can assist your child
  • If children become lost, they should be taught it is acceptable to tell an employee of a store, or other official, that they are lost
  • While children should be taught that it is acceptable to ask a stranger for help if they need it, they should be taught that it is not acceptable for strangers to ask them for help
  • Children should be taught they should not go with a stranger because the stranger needs help. They should be taught it is acceptable to go with a stranger if they are in need of help
  • Teach a child that no one has the right to touch his or her body, especially in areas which a bathing suit would cover up. If an adult does touch a child in these areas, the child should be taught to seek help and tell
  • Teach the child that it is acceptable to tell an adult “no” if the adult wants them to do something they do not feel is right. Instruct the child to go immediately to someone they trust and tell them what happened
  • Children should be taught that if a stranger tries to take them somewhere, they should kick, hit and scream for help. Children should be taught to yell something that alerts everyone. This could be “Help! I’m being kidnapped!” or “Help! I don’t know this person!”
  • Children should be taught not to leave their yard when playing outside. If a stranger calls to him or her, the child should run inside immediately and alert a caregiver
  • When answering the phone, a child should never tell someone he or she is alone
  • A child should not be allowed to answer the door if he or she is home alone
  • If a car drives beside a child while the child is walking somewhere, the child should be instructed to move away from the car and go to a public area, or a safe place, and ask for help
  • Children should be taught to never get into a car with someone they do not know, unless the stranger knows the “code word” the child and parent have decided upon for emergencies

What You Can Do

  • Never leave a child unattended in a car, a stroller, shopping cart, etc. at anytime for any reason
  • Always accompany children to public restrooms
  • Always accompany children to school events, trick or treating, and other functions where they will come in contact with many strangers
  • Show your child where safe places are. Safe places can include homes, businesses, and other public areas
  • Keep up to date photographs, as well as medical and dental records on each of your children
  • Map out the safest routes your child should take if he or she has to walk to and from school
  • Teach your child self-defense techniques

What to do if your child is missing

Act immediately if you believe that your child is missing.

  • If your child is missing from home, search the house checking closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside old refrigerators—wherever a child may crawl or hide
  • If you still cannot find your child, immediately call your local law-enforcement agency
  • If your child disappears in a store, notify the store manager or security office. Then immediately call your local law-enforcement agency. Many stores have a Code Adam plan of action—if a child is missing in the store, employees immediately mobilize to look for the missing child
  • When you call law enforcement, provide your child's name, date of birth, height, weight, and any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed that your child was missing and what clothing he or she was wearing
  • Request that your child's name and identifying information be immediately entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File
  • After you have reported your child missing to law enforcement, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children on our toll-free telephone number, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). If your computer is equipped with a microphone and speakers you may talk to one of our Hotline operators via the Internet