In an instant, a peaceful day can become a nightmare when a child is discovered missing. We have witnessed tragic abductions of children of all ages across America—in rural byways and major cities. We have also been heartened by the joyful reunions of children safely returned to their parents.

Children may be missing from home for a variety of reasons. They may run away after a heated argument with their parents or be lured away by an online predator in an Internet chatroom. They may be taken by a noncustodial parent to another country—perhaps to strike back at an ex-spouse—or abducted by someone the child does not know.

Whatever the reason a child is missing, parents’ lives are turned upside down, and minutes race into hours as they frantically seek their child’s return to the safety of home. We know that time is of the essence in terms of finding a child. What should parents do if their child is missing? To whom can they turn? What help can they expect?

When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide was written as a labor of love and a vision of hope by parents who have experienced firsthand the trauma of a missing child. It has been updated to provide parents the most current information available and provides helpful insights into what families should do—and what they can expect—when a child is missing. Above all, it offers encouragement and support at a time when they are needed most.

I pray that you will never experience the trauma of a missing child and that every child will be kept safe from harm and danger. Should your child become missing, however, I hope that this Guide gives you the knowledge to face this terrible challenge with strength and determination.

J. Robert Flores
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

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When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide OJJDP Report • May 2004