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What You Should Do When Your Child Is First Missing

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What You Should Do When Your Child Is First Missing

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:07

What You Should Do When Your Child Is First Missing


The first 48 hours following the disappearance of a child are the most critical in terms of finding and returning that child safely home -- but they also can be the most troublesome and chaotic. Use this checklist during those first hours to help you do everything you can to increase the chances of recovering your child -- but if more than 48 hours have passed since your child disappeared, you should still try to tend to these items as quickly as possible. All of the action steps described here are covered in greater detail later in the Guide to help you gain a better understanding of what you should be doing and why.

The First 24 Hours

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Immediately report your child as missing to your local law enforcement agency. Ask investigators to enter your child into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Persons File. There is no waiting period for entry into NCIC for children under age 18.

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Request that law enforcement put out a Be On the Look Out (BOLO) bulletin. Ask them about involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the search for your child.

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Limit access to your home until law enforcement arrives and has collected possible evidence. Do not touch or remove anything from your child's room or from your home. Remember that clothing, sheets, personal items, computers, and even trash may hold clues to the whereabouts of your child. The checklist in chapter 1 (Gathering Evidence in the First 48 Hours) contains detailed information about securing your child's room and preserving evidence.

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Ask for the name and telephone number of the law enforcement investigator assigned to your case, and keep this information in a safe and convenient place.

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Give law enforcement investigators all the facts and circumstances related to the disappearance of your child, including what efforts have already been made to search for your child.

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Write a detailed description of the clothing worn by your child and the personal items he or she had at the time of the disappearance. Include in your description any personal identification marks, such as birthmarks, scars, tattoos, or mannerisms, that may help in finding your child. If possible, find a picture of your child that shows these identification marks and give it to law enforcement. See the chapter 1 checklist (Gathering Evidence in the First 48 Hours) for more details.

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Make a list of friends, acquaintances, and anyone else who might have information or clues about your child's whereabouts. Include telephone numbers and addresses, if possible. Tell your law enforcement investigator about anyone who moved in or out of the neighborhood within the past year, anyone whose interest in or involvement with the family changed in recent months, and anyone who appeared to be overly interested in your child.

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Find recent photographs of your child in both black and white and color. Make copies of these pictures for your law enforcement agency, the media, your State missing children's clearinghouse, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and other nonprofit organizations. Chapter 4 (Photo and Flier Distribution) contains suggestions on how to produce and distribute fliers and posters.

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Call NCMEC at 800-THE-LOST (800-843-5678) to ask for help with photo distribution. Also, ask for the telephone numbers of other nonprofit organizations that might be able to help.

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Look in the Additional Resources section at the end of this Guide to find the telephone number of your State missing children's clearinghouse. Then, call your clearinghouse to find out what resources and services it can provide in the search for your child.

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Ask your law enforcement agency to organize a search for your child. Ask them about using tracking or trailing dogs (preferably bloodhounds) in the search effort. Read chapters 1 (The Search) and 5 (Volunteers) as you prepare for the search.

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Ask your law enforcement agency for help in contacting the media. Chapter 3 (The Media) contains advice on working with the media.

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Designate one person to answer your telephone. Keep a notebook or pad of paper by the telephone so this person can jot down names, telephone numbers, dates and times of calls, and other information relating to each call.

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Keep a notebook or pad of paper with you at all times to write down your thoughts or questions and record important information, such as names, dates, or telephone numbers.

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Take good care of yourself and your family, because your child needs you to be strong. As hard as it may be, force yourself to get rest, eat nourishing food, and talk to someone about your tumultuous feelings. When you can, read chapter 7 (Personal and Family Considerations).

The Second 24 Hours

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Talk with your law enforcement investigator about the steps that are being taken to find your child. If your law enforcement investigator does not have a copy of Missing and Abducted Children: A Law Enforcement Guide to Case Investigation and Program Management, suggest that he or she call NCMEC at 800-THE-LOST (800-843-5678) to obtain one. Also, your law enforcement investigator can contact the Crimes Against Children Coordinator in the local FBI Field Office to obtain a copy of the FBI's Child Abduction Response Plan.

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Expand your list of friends, acquaintances, extended family members, yard workers, delivery persons, and anyone who may have seen your child during or following the abduction.

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Look at personal calendars, community events calendars, and newspapers to see if there are any clues as to who was in the vicinity and might be the abductor or a possible witness. Give this information to law enforcement.

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Expect that you will be asked to take a polygraph test, which is standard procedure. If you have not done so yet, read chapter 1 (The Search).

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Ask your law enforcement agency to request that NCMEC issue a broadcast fax to law enforcement agencies around the country. If you have not already read chapter 4 (Photo and Flier Distribution), try to read it now.

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Work with your law enforcement agency to schedule press releases and media events. If necessary, ask someone close to you to serve as your media spokesperson. Chapter 3 (The Media) provides tips on working with the media.

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Talk to your law enforcement agency about the use of a reward. When you can, read chapter 6 (Rewards and Donations).

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Report all extortion attempts to law enforcement.

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Have a second telephone line installed with call forwarding. Get caller ID and call waiting. Ask law enforcement to install a trap-and-trace feature on your phone. Get a cellular phone or pager so you can be reached when you are away from home.

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Take care of yourself. Don't be afraid to ask others to take care of your physical and emotional needs and those of your family. Read chapter 7 (Personal and Family Considerations) for specific suggestions.

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Make a list of things that volunteers can do for you and your family. See chapter 5 (Volunteers) for ideas.

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Call your child's doctor and dentist and ask for copies of medical records and x rays. Give them to law enforcement.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

milly
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The Search

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:08

The Search


When a child is reported missing, emotions become raw, which can hinder the ability of parents to make rational decisions. Yet, the actions of parents and of law enforcement in the first 48 hours are critical to the safe recovery of a missing child. Knowing what you can do, what others can do, and where to go for help will not only expedite the search and recovery of your child, it also will help to ease the emotional and financial burden of the search. This chapter examines your role and the role of others in the immediate search for your missing child and discusses what steps should be taken in the event that your child does not return within the first few days.

Your Role in the Search: The First 48 Hours

In the initial stage of the search, devote your time to providing information to and answering questions from investigators. Once you discover that your child is missing, you will desperately want to help with the search. You may, in fact, wonder how you possibly can stand by and let others look for your child. But the reality is that in most instances, the best use of your energy is not on the physical search itself. Rather, you need to provide information to and answer questions from investigators and to be at home in the event your child calls. The checklist Gathering Evidence in the First 48 Hours identifies the most crucial pieces of background information and evidence that law enforcement will need in the search for your child.

The Role of Law Enforcement in the Search

When a child has disappeared, most of the initial searching of the area where the child is believed to have been last will be coordinated by law enforcement -- either Federal, State, or local, depending on the circumstances of the disappearance. Law enforcement needs to direct the search effort in order to make sure that the search is performed properly and that the evidence located during the search -- and at the crime scene -- is properly protected and preserved.

Usually, law enforcement agencies can quickly obtain the necessary equipment and mobilize additional personnel by bringing in outside forces. Because time is a critical factor in the search and recovery effort, equipment and staff should be requested at the beginning of the process. Your local agency may request that tracking or trailing dogs, infrared devices that locate heat given off from the body, or helicopters be delivered to the scene and may request help from the Border Patrol, the Coast Guard, the National Guard, other military personnel, or correctional institution staff. Many of these groups are already trained in search procedures, and their established chain of command makes the search effort more likely to be thorough, comprehensive, and efficient. In addition, the FBI maintains Field Offices that have Evidence Response Teams that could be of assistance in cases of missing or abducted children.

In many communities, law enforcement agencies have an established plan, similar to an emergency relief or disaster plan, to guide their search and recovery efforts. Ask your law enforcement agency about its plan. Make sure the agency has a copy of Missing and Abducted Children: A Law Enforcement Guide to Case Investigation and Program Management (published by NCMEC), which provides step-by-step instructions on how to respond to and investigate missing children cases and details procedures for conducting and managing the search. Also, make sure that your law enforcement agency has a copy of the Child Abduction Response Plan (published by the FBI and available from local Crimes Against Children Coordinators in FBI Field Offices), which emphasizes the techniques that are essential in conducting abduction investigations.

Typically, your law enforcement agency will designate one or two persons to coordinate and manage the search. Ask for the name and telephone number of your law enforcement coordinator as soon as possible. Keep this information where you can find it in a safe, convenient place. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your search coordinator. Don't be afraid to ask questions, make suggestions, or air differences of opinion.

Find out what types of searches are planned. Searches can be conducted in several ways:

A crime scene search of the areas where your child was last seen.

A door-to-door search.

A grid search.

A land, sea, or air search.

A roadblock search, which may involve stopping cars at the same time of day at the location where your child was last seen. Because people are creatures of habit and tend to take the same route each day, roadblock searches sometimes produce witnesses who saw your child, who observed someone hanging around the area, or who remember an out-of-place vehicle.

Ask your search coordinator what types of searches are being conducted, and make sure you feel comfortable that the search effort is adequate.

Records documenting which areas were searched, who was present, and what was found will be kept. Law enforcement will maintain a record showing what areas have been searched and by whom. A second search of critical areas for information and clues might be advisable, because something may have been overlooked during the initial search.

Tracking or trailing dogs, preferably bloodhounds, should be brought immediately to the scene where your child was last seen. The fresher the trail, the more likely the dogs will be able to find your child. Bloodhounds are your best bet, because they have 60 times the tracking power of German shepherds, can discriminate among scents, and can follow your child's scent in the air and on the ground. This means that they may be able to pick up your child's scent even if he or she was carried in someone's arms or in a vehicle.

Telephone Tips

* If you do not already have one, buy a mobile phone or pager so you can be reached when you are away from home.

* Ask law enforcement to install a trap and trace on your phone.

* Install a phone with the ability to tape calls.

* Ask your telephone company to install caller ID on your telephone line.

* Keep a phone log, a pad of paper, or a spiral notebook next to the phone to record the date and time of phone calls, the name of the caller, and other information.

The Role of Volunteers in the Search

If volunteers are used in the search, your law enforcement agency should still be responsible for managing the overall search effort. The extent to which volunteers are used in the search will depend on whether additional personnel -- beyond the military -- are needed. A volunteer search coordinator may be needed to organize the volunteer search effort.

Try to recruit established organizations, agencies, or groups -- rather than individual volunteers -- in the search. The use of affiliated groups makes it possible to quickly gather and organize a large number of volunteers. It also provides an inner chain of command, which makes communication and training easier, and provides an internal screening mechanism.

When volunteers are used, request that the volunteer staging area be located away from your home. There will be enough traffic, chaos, and confusion at your home without the added burden of volunteer search teams.

All volunteer searchers should be required to sign in each time they participate in a search activity. The sign-in procedure can be as simple as asking the volunteer searchers to show their driver's licenses and to list in a log book their names, addresses, and organizational affiliations, such as the Boy Scouts, local labor union, place of business, or local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Keep all records for future reference.

A more elaborate sign-in procedure involves videotaping the sign-in and search efforts. Although it is impossible to videotape every search from start to finish, videotapes that show the searchers, the sign-in process, and the search locations can provide valuable information about possible clues and suspects. Some situations that seem innocent initially, such as the repeated appearance of an overly concerned searcher, may not be as innocent as they appear.

Request that law enforcement run background checks on persons volunteering for the search for prior criminal activity. In previous cases, thieves, pedophiles, and even the missing child's abductor have been known to join in a search. Background checks can prevent misguided people from volunteering and sometimes can provide information that helps law enforcement conduct the search.

Have your volunteer coordinator talk with law enforcement to determine whether additional equipment or personnel are needed to make the search quick and massive enough. Contact local businesses, missing children's organizations, NCMEC, your State missing children's clearinghouse, or other agencies to obtain the necessary supplies or tap into a network of people.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

milly
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The Role of Private Detectives and Psychics in the Long-Term Search

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:09

The Role of Private Detectives and Psychics in the Long-Term Search



Private Detectives

If the immediate search is not successful, you may be tempted to try almost anything. Some parents turn to private detectives to aid in the search.

Consider hiring a private detective or investigator only if you are convinced that he or she can do something better or different than what is being done by law enforcement. Be certain that you are not simply wasting money that could be spent more productively in another way. If you decide to use a private detective, the following tips can help:

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Always ask for and check references to find out if the investigator is legitimate.

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Be wary of people who say they can bring your child back immediately for a specific sum of money. If you run into this situation, report it to law enforcement.

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Make sure you are paying a reasonable rate. Insist that the investigator itemize expenses.

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Make sure the detective has experience working with law enforcement. Law enforcement must be notified immediately of any leads you receive from a private investigator.


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Inform your assigned law enforcement investigator about your decision to hire a private investigator. In most instances, this individual will need to talk to law enforcement before becoming involved in the case.

Psychics

Keep an open mind -- and a closed pocketbook -- when considering the use of a psychic. Most parents are desperate to try anything, but they need to understand that there are very few true psychics. Many are fraudulent or, at best, misguided individuals who want to help so much that they have self-induced visions. Hearing their sometimes negative dreams and visions can cause undue stress, a loss of hope, or an unfounded sense of hope. If you are considering turning to a psychic, remember the following tips:

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Ask someone close to the family to record any psychic leads, because the information is usually distressing. Give all such leads to law enforcement.

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If any lead is highly specific, such as a particular address, insist that law enforcement check it out. Follow up with law enforcement to find out the value of the lead.

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Never allow a psychic to go into your child's room unattended or to take items without making arrangements for their return.

Regardless of whether some psychics have true visions, any purportedly psychic dream may be an actual observation by someone who is afraid to get involved. That is why even psychic leads need to be checked out whenever possible.

Overzealous Individuals

Be prepared to encounter a few people who are fanatical or obsessive in their behavior or in their desire to help. Keep in mind that some people may try to use your loss to gain attention for themselves. Protect yourself from people who might be delusional or who may prey on victims through scams or by offering false hopes and expectations. The key is to keep your focus and exercise caution.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

milly
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Gathering Evidence in the First 48 Hours

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:10

Gathering Evidence in the First 48 Hours


One of the most critical aspects in the search for a missing child is the gathering of evidence that may hold clues about a child's disappearance or whereabouts. The mishandling of evidence can adversely affect an investigation. Similarly, the collection and preservation of evidence are key to finding a missing child. Parents play a vital role in finding a missing child by providing critical information to law enforcement, by protecting evidence in and around the home, and by gathering information about persons or situations that might hold clues. The following are some tips on what you should do to help law enforcement conduct a thorough and complete investigation.

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Secure your child's room.

Even though your child may have disappeared from outside the home, your child's room should be searched thoroughly by law enforcement for clues and evidence. Don't clean the child's room, wash your child's clothes, or pick up your house. Don't allow well-meaning family members or friends to disturb anything. Even a trash bin or a computer may contain clues that lead to the recovery of the child.

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Do not touch or remove anything from your child's room or from your home that might have your child's fingerprints, DNA, or scent on it. This includes your child's hairbrush, bed linens, worn clothing, pencil with bite marks, diary, or address book. With a good set of fingerprints or a sample of DNA from hair, law enforcement may be able to tell whether your child has been in a particular car or house. With good scent material, tracking dogs may be able to find your child.

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Do not allow anyone else to sleep in your child's bed, play with his or her toys, or use his or her bedroom for any purpose. Law enforcement dispatch should advise you not to disturb any part of the house until a thorough search of the scene has been conducted. Investigators should let you know when their search is complete.

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Be prepared to give investigators all the facts and circumstances related to the disappearance of your child. This includes knowing where your child was last seen, where your child normally went to play, what your child was wearing, and what personal possessions your child had with him or her.

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Describe in detail the clothing your child was wearing and any personal items in the child's possession at the time of the disappearance. Specify color, brand, and size. If possible, have someone obtain replicas of clothing, hats, purses, backpacks, or other items your child had or wore at the time of the disappearance. Give these articles to law enforcement for them to release to the media and to show to searchers. Make sure you mark these items as duplicates or replicas.

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Make a list of personal identification marks and specific personality traits. Describe birthmarks, scars, tattoos, missing teeth, eyeglasses, contacts, speech patterns, and behavioral traits. If possible, find photographs that show these unique features. If you have fingerprints of your child or a DNA blood sample, also give these to law enforcement.

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Gather together personal items, such as baby teeth, old baseball caps, or old toothbrushes. These items may contain hair or blood samples that may be useful as DNA evidence. Also look for pencils or toys that contain impressions of your child's teeth.

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Think about your child's behavior and routine. Be prepared to discuss where your child played or hung out, what was the usual route taken to and from school, and what other paths of travel might have been taken. Be specific about what your child did for recreation, including playing outdoors, surfing the Internet, and other activities.

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Try to remember any changes in your child's routine or any new experiences. Look at personal and family calendars to see if they contain clues as to your child's whereabouts or the identity of the abductor. For example, during the past year, did your child join a soccer team, change teams, or get a new coach? Did your child start playing or hanging out in a different area? Did your child keep a diary that might hold clues?

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Try to remember if your child mentioned any new friends. Talk with your child's friends and teachers to see if they know of any new friends or other contacts your child recently made.

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Find recent photographs of your child in both color and black and white, then have someone make multiple copies of the photographs and keep the originals in a safe place. Check your cameras for undeveloped film, because the most recent photos of your child may be found there. Ask family members and friends to do the same. Give law enforcement multiple photos showing different poses. Steer away from formal or posed photos that do not look like your child. Being careful not to damage the photo, mark the back of each picture with your child's name, address, date of birth, and age when the picture was taken.

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Find videotapes or movies of your child and make copies. Also ask family members and friends if they have videotapes or movies of your child, perhaps at birthday parties, soccer games, and so forth. Give law enforcement copies that show your child's expressions and mannerisms.

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Make a list of family members, friends, acquaintances, coaches, teachers, and other school staff. Write down as many telephone numbers and addresses as you can. Offer information for prior in-laws and relatives as well. Include on your list anyone you feel might have something against you or your family.

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Make a list of everyone who routinely comes to your home. Your list should include postal workers, meter readers, garbage collectors, repair persons, salespeople, pizza delivery persons, and so forth.

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Make a list of new, different, or unusual people or circumstances in and around your home or school within the past year. Think about if you or any of your neighbors had any home remodeling or house repairs done within the past year. Were any houses listed for sale in your neighborhood in the past year? Has there been any road construction or building in the area? Have any traveling carnivals passed through the area?

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Ask your child's doctor and dentist for copies of the child's medical and dental records and x rays. Give copies of all medical and dental records to law enforcement for use in the investigation.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

milly
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To give your child the best chance of being found, you and law enforcement must treat one another as partners.

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:11

To give your child the best chance of being found, you and law enforcement must treat one another as partners.


Few parents have had experience working with law enforcement agencies. Perhaps you have had contact previously with law enforcement as a result of a traffic ticket or an accident. If so, you probably saw law enforcement as the enforcer of rules that had been broken -- not as a lifeline.

But when your child is missing, you and law enforcement become partners pursuing a common goal -- finding your lost or abducted child. As partners, you need to establish a relationship that is based on mutual respect, trust, and honesty. As partners, however, you do not have to agree on every detail. This chapter provides insight into the relationship you are entering into with law enforcement -- what you can expect from the investigation, what types of questions you are likely to be asked, and what situations you and your family are likely to encounter in the process.

Your Partnership With Law Enforcement

Most people do not believe that they will be victims of crime -- or that their children will be victimized. But if a young member of your family becomes a victim, you will likely wonder what law enforcement expects of you and what you can expect of law enforcement. Understanding these expectations will deepen your knowledge of law enforcement's role, establish a sound basis for your relationship with the agencies and organizations that are there to help, and assist you in handling this all-too-sudden change in circumstances.

Make sure law enforcement understands that your child is in danger and that his or her absence is likely to be involuntary. If your child is 10 years old or younger, it will not be hard to show that your child is in danger. However, if your child is older than 10, it is important to let law enforcement know that your child's absence is not normal behavior and that you would be surprised if your child had disappeared voluntarily.

Check to see if any money, clothing (other than what your child was wearing), or other personal items are missing. If nothing else is missing, be sure law enforcement is aware of this.

Let law enforcement know how your child is doing in school and if your child has quarreled recently with you or a friend. If you can establish that there is nothing to indicate that your child ran away, it will expedite law enforcement's classification of your child as abducted or endangered.

Be honest, complete, and forthcoming in your statements and answers to law enforcement. Fully disclose all recent activities of and conversations with your child. What may seem insignificant to you may be important to an investigator.

Be prepared for hard, repetitious questions from investigators. As difficult as it may be, try not to respond in a hostile manner to questions that seem personal or offensive. The fact is that investigators must ask difficult and sensitive questions if they are to do their jobs effectively.

Don't feel guilty about relaying suspicions concerning someone you know. It is not often that a total stranger takes a child. You may not want to believe that it is someone that you know, but keep an open mind and consider all the possibilities. Above all else, trust your feelings, instincts, and gut reactions and share them with law enforcement so they can be checked out.

Do everything possible to get you and your family removed from the suspect list. As painful as it may be, accept the fact that a large number of children are harmed by members of their own families, and therefore you and your family will be considered suspects until you are cleared. To help law enforcement move on to other suspects, volunteer early to take a polygraph test. Insist that both parents be tested at the same time by different interviewers, or one after another. This will help to deflect media speculation that one of you was involved in the disappearance.

Insist that everyone close to your child be interviewed. Encourage everyone -- including family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, and coaches -- to cooperate in the investigatory process. Although polygraph testing is voluntary, refusal to take a polygraph can cause law enforcement to spend time trying to eliminate an individual from the suspect list through other means and, as a result, take valuable time away from finding the real suspect.

Leave the interviewing of your other children to law enforcement. Do not question your children yourself. Especially with younger children, insist that a law enforcement officer who is trained to interview children conduct the questioning. Many law enforcement agencies have a child abuse unit with officers who are specially trained to work with children.

You can also ask to have a child advocate sit in on the interview with your child. Child advocates are specially trained volunteers who provide assistance and support to children involved in the legal process. Child advocates are normally housed in the district attorney's office, the court, or the law enforcement agency. Ask law enforcement for information about your local child advocate office. If your child is very young, you may be asked to sit in on the interview. Don't be alarmed, however, if law enforcement prefers to interview your children alone.

Be prepared for constant law enforcement presence in your home. For the protection of you and your family, an officer may be assigned to your home on a 24-hour basis. Although this presence may feel intrusive, welcome the officer, and recognize that this person is there to answer calls and take leads, protect you and other members of your family from potential harm, and provide support. If your law enforcement agency is small, however, it may not have the resources to place an officer in your home 24 hours a day. In those circumstances, it is still reasonable for you to ask for added law enforcement protection in your home.

Talk regularly with your primary law enforcement contact. The officer who responded initially to your call for help may not be your permanent family contact. If there is a good chance that your child has run away, for example, your primary law enforcement contact may work in the missing persons unit. If it is suspected that force was used to abduct your child, your case may be handled by a detective from homicide. Find out who your primary law enforcement contact is and get his or her phone and beeper numbers. Make sure that you find out the name of the backup person to call when your primary law enforcement contact is not available.

Pick a time of day for your contact to call you with information. But realize that there will be days when your investigator has nothing to report. Also, designate one person to serve as the primary law enforcement contact for the family. If your investigator is bombarded with telephone calls from family members and friends, valuable time will be taken away from the investigation.

Make sure investigators know that you expect to hear about significant developments in the case from them, not from the media. The flip side of this is that you must honor law enforcement's request not to disclose some pieces of information to the media. Understand, however, that law enforcement may not be able to tell you everything about the case because full disclosure might jeopardize the investigation.

Satisfy yourself that law enforcement is handling your child's case properly. All of the agencies involved in the investigation should be cooperating with one another in pursuit of one goal -- finding your missing child and getting the predator off the street. The checklist Working With Law Enforcement lists the most important steps that law enforcement can take to find your missing child. The more you understand the investigatory process, the better able you will be to ask questions about it.

However, you should be aware that most law enforcement officers do not have firsthand experience working on a missing child case. If your primary contact cannot answer a question, find out who can. Also, if you feel that your child's disappearance has been classified inappropriately, ask to speak to the officer's supervisor or to someone else who may have more experience in these types of cases. Don't take no for an answer if you feel strongly that something else needs to be done.

Finally, learn about the services that are available from NCMEC, from your State missing children's clearinghouse, and from the television show America's Most Wanted. See the Additional Resources section at the end of this Guide for addresses, phone numbers, and brief descriptions of some of the services that are available to you.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

milly
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The Media

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:12

The Media


One shot on the evening news is worth 20,000 posters.

The media can be important allies in the search for your missing child. But media interest in your case may be either intense or lukewarm, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of your child and the media's judgment of what is newsworthy.

If you are subjected to intensive media coverage, welcome the attention, even though it may feel uncomfortable, because it is the fastest and most important way to distribute information about and pictures of your child. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the amount of attention, ask law enforcement to help you deal with the sudden barrage of reporters and requests for interviews. However, if the media do not take an interest in your case, there are a number of things you can do to get the media involved. This chapter offers suggestions for generating, maintaining, and managing media involvement.

Media Involvement: The First 48 Hours

During the first 48 hours, you need to do as much as you can to generate media interest in the search for your child. The following tips can help.

Contact the media immediately. Media publicity is the best way to generate leads from the public concerning your child. In most cases, the media should be contacted immediately, because time is not on your child's side. You can ask law enforcement to make the initial calls to media outlets, but if this is not done within the first hour, call and give the information to the assignment editors yourself. Intense, early media coverage ensures that people will be looking for your child. Sometimes the coverage is so intense it causes an abductor to let the child go.

Ask radio and television stations to run short clips about the disappearance or to break into their regular programming with information, as is done with a weather warning or other emergency broadcast. Don't wait until the evening news to have information disseminated about your child. Time is of the essence.

Although television coverage is crucial in getting out pictures and stories of your child, don't ignore other types of media. Print and radio media reach tens of thousands of homes each day, and they may be more generous in their treatment of your story. Many people are likely to hear about your child's disappearance first on their car radios. Supplement those broadcasts with stories and pictures of your child in the earliest possible edition of your local newspaper.

Law enforcement may need to be convinced that the media are important allies in a missing child case. Sometimes law enforcement is reluctant to get the media involved in an active criminal investigation. If your law enforcement agency is reluctant, you will have to work closely with your primary contact. Point out that swift use of the media has led to the successful recovery of more than one missing child and that your child's safety and recovery are more important than building a case against a suspect. Emphasize that you are going to be around for interrogation as weeks pass, but your child's life is in imminent jeopardy. Ask if certain information should not be released because it might jeopardize the case or the safety of your child and honor that request. As a last resort, ask NCMEC, your State missing children's clearinghouse, and missing children's organizations to assist in the event that your law enforcement agency does not want to involve the media.

Prepare a media package and give it to all representatives of the media. The media package should include basic information about your child, including:

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A complete description of your child and of the clothing he or she was wearing at the time of the disappearance.

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A description of the place where your child was last seen.

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Black-and-white and color photos.

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A phone number for people to call with possible leads.

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Details of the reward, if one is being offered.

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Other pertinent information that could help in the recovery of your child, such as a suspicious vehicle near the location where your child was last seen.

A media package will ensure that all reporters start with the same information and will reduce the amount of time you spend answering basic questions. When you prepare a media package, make enough copies to distribute, then keep the original in a safe place in case you need it again in the future.

Setting Ground Rules

In the very beginning, media interest is likely to be both intense and intimidating. Therefore, it's important for you to establish ground rules as to where and how often you or your spokesperson will meet with the media. The following tips can help.

* Schedule specific times and locations so reporters know when and where they will be able to ask questions and obtain information. Remember that you control the situation -- the media do not control you.

* Choose a location that is convenient for you but that allows the media the space they need to cover the story. For example, you may feel most comfortable holding interviews either outside your house or inside one room. That way, you can allow the media to glimpse your child's personal life without letting them become too invasive.

* Don't open up your home to the media without restrictions or limitations. If you do, you will lose all privacy, and the presence of reporters could interfere with officers working at the scene.

* Don't feel that you are personally obligated to provide all interviews or to participate in all media events. Ask law enforcement, your family spokesperson, and other family members to help.

* Remember that you have the ability to set limits in terms of timing, scheduling, and making rules concerning the use of pictures of your other children. Be sure that the media are aware of your rules and that you expect them to be followed.

Select someone to function as a media spokesperson if you feel you are not able to speak alone. Audiences identify with the fear and anguish parents feel when their child is missing. Seeing your face and hearing your voice will motivate viewers to look closer at the picture of your child and to search harder for him or her. Therefore, it is best if you can speak on your child's behalf. However, don't feel you need to be a great speaker. Just talk from your heart and let people know you love your child and need their help in finding and bringing your child home. Bolster your confidence by having someone you know stand beside you to provide support and step in if necessary. On the other hand, if you or your spouse feel unable to deal with the media, choose someone you trust to speak for you, and try to stand beside your spokesperson during the interview. The checklist Conducting Interviews With the Media gives more specific tips on interviews with both print and broadcast journalists.

Schedule press conferences and interviews around media deadlines. The media operate on deadlines. If you schedule a press conference either too early or too late in the day, reporters will find it difficult to finish their pieces in time to meet their daily deadlines. Consult with reporters to find out when and how often they would like to meet with you. Many parents have found 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to be good times because they give reporters enough time to prepare stories for both the noon and evening news and because many reporters have openings in their schedule at these times.

Do not schedule draining interviews or speeches back to back. Realize that you have limited mental and physical resources and that if you are not fresh, you will not be effective. If you have an opportunity to appear on a popular radio or television show or on a national network, give this engagement priority over others. However, remember that local television and radio stations will be in your community after the networks leave, so work to develop a long-term relationship with them. Sometimes you can ask local stations to rerun portions of an interview you did with the national affiliate.

Avoid scheduling press conferences that conflict with an important event. If you want to make an important announcement, such as a reward offer, make sure you aren't competing with another scheduled event. Find out what events are listed in the day book -- often kept by Associated Press -- which is used by local media to keep track of newsworthy occurrences. Set your press conference for a time when nothing else significant is happening.

Ask NCMEC or law enforcement to contact America's Most Wanted on your behalf. The staff of this television program, which broadcasts nationally, have a special interest in helping to recover abducted children. Sometimes the production staff move very rapidly to get an abducted child's story on the air.

Be aware of your public status. Although this is not the kind of fame you want, you may attain some sort of "celebrity" standing because of your continuous involvement with the media. This sudden public status can be very intrusive. People will recognize and approach you wherever you go. The media may turn up at any time and any place, asking for information. You may be filmed any time you are in a public place -- and even through the windows of your own home, if the photographer uses a powerful lens. Therefore, for your child's sake, conduct yourself as if all eyes were upon you. Realize that you no longer have the same privacy you once had. Try not to be paranoid, but be careful. Don't do things that might cast you in a negative light, but don't feel guilty if you go out to dinner or to the movies to relieve the stress as the days and weeks pass.

Review all media stories, comments, and tapes. Parents, family members, and friends should review all media spots and events in case they contain clues or pieces of information that could help you at a later date. For example, comments by particular individuals, multiple appearances by one individual, or knowledge of personal or confidential information not previously revealed may help to pinpoint either the perpetrator or persons close to the perpetrator.

If your child is returned, don't let him or her review any tapes of the suspect. This may jeopardize identification of the suspect by your child when a lineup is scheduled by law enforcement.

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Media Involvement: After the First 48 Hours

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:13

Media Involvement: After the First 48 Hours


At first, you may feel overwhelmed by the intense media interest generated by your child's disappearance. After a week or so, however, if your child has not been found, you may run into the opposite problem. If media interest dies down, you will have to work to keep the story going. Here are some things you can do to keep your child's story in the public eye.

Devise "media hooks" to keep your child's story in front of the public. Schedule a press conference on an important day, such as National Missing Children's Day (May 25), or prepare a press release to coincide with Federal or State legislation relating to missing, exploited, or victimized children. Remember, you don't know how long you will have to search for your child, so you need to plan for the long term. Ask a family member or friend to help if you find the task too difficult.

Give the story a new slant. To give the story a new look, you may want to change the tone of your interviews. Try bringing in someone new to discuss the case, such as a politician, sports personality, popular entertainer, or someone close to the investigation.

Pace yourself. Parcel out new developments in the case in separate announcements to spread coverage over a longer period of time. Ask law enforcement to notify the press of significant developments, such as important leads or items found during the physical search.

Keep the story alive by tying it to a variety of events and activities. You can hold a candlelight vigil, announce a reward, or show how celebrations such as a birthday, holiday, or graduation are different without your child. You can tie your child's story to something that will be broadcast repeatedly, such as a popular song on the radio. Then, every time the song plays, it will be a reminder that your child is still missing. If you can create a way for the media to present your child's story in a different way, it is more likely to be run. Remember that media attention increases when you hold special events and when anniversaries come up. Also, remember to coordinate all events and activities with law enforcement, because they can be an important part of the overall investigative strategy.

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Victim's Bill of Rights

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:14

Victim's Bill of Rights


Appearing on air, whether television or radio, is a new experience for most people. The anxiety produced by this new experience, combined with the trauma of the initial victimization and the retelling of it, underscores the need for parent victims to maintain control over the situation. The following guidelines were written by the National Victim Center to minimize the possibility of a second victimization inflicted by the mishandling of a story by the media.

* You have the right to say no to an interview.

* You have the right to select the spokesperson or advocate of your choice.

* You have the right to select the time and location for media interviews.

* You have the right to request a specific reporter.

* You have the right to refuse an interview with a specific reporter even though you have granted interviews to other reporters.

* You have the right to say no to an interview even though you have previously granted interviews.

* You have the right to release a written statement through a spokesperson in lieu of an interview.

* You have the right to exclude children from interviews.

* You have the right to refrain from answering any questions that make you uncomfortable or that seem inappropriate.

* You have the right to know in advance what direction the story about your victimization is going to take.

* You have the right to ask for review of your quotations in a storyline prior to publication.

* You have the right to avoid a press conference atmosphere and to speak to only one reporter at a time.

* You have the right to demand a retraction when inaccurate information is reported.

* You have the right to ask that offensive photographs or visuals be omitted from airing or publication.

* You have the right to conduct a television interview using a silhouette or a newspaper interview without having your photograph taken.

* You have the right to completely give your side of the story related to your victimization.

* You have the right to refrain from answering reporters' questions during trial.

* You have the right to file a formal complaint against a reporter.

* You have the right to grieve in privacy.

* You have the right to suggest training for the media on how they can prevent additional traumatization for victims.

* You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect by the media at all times.

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Re: What You Should Do When Your Child Is First Missing

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:14

Develop rapport with someone in radio, television, and print. If a reporter or editor takes a special interest in your story, that person can help you devise ways to get your child's story back in the spotlight. Keep a list of names, telephone and fax numbers, and personal and professional interests. Although reporters often change stations, newspapers, and cities, remember that they can take a story with them wherever they go.

Identify the assignment editors for each news organization, and send your press releases to their attention. Assignment editors are the ones who decide which events to cover and whom to assign as reporters. If you plan an event, let the news organization know what is happening by faxing a news release. Give the facts of the case, along with a news "slant."

Consider granting exclusive interviews. In the beginning, you probably will not want to grant an exclusive interview, because interest will be high and you will want the broadest coverage possible. Also, granting an exclusive interview to one news organization over another may offend the one that you leave out. Later, however, an exclusive interview may be appropriate, such as to one station that has developed a story independently or to a national media group such as ABC, CBS, CNN, or NBC. In some cases, an exclusive interview may be the only way to get a particular aspect of your story out.

Use the media to appeal for special help. The media can be a very effective tool in asking for help. If you need volunteers, training, printing, or equipment that is prohibitively expensive or not readily available, ask the media to broadcast your request. Give a wish list to local radio stations, because they in particular are often willing to publicize such appeals as a public service or interest report. Not only can this provide you with the help you need, but it can be yet another hook to remind the public to keep looking for your child.

If possible, obtain the help of a media expert. Sometimes professionals working in the field of public relations donate their services to parents. Because these professionals are very savvy in their dealings with the media, they can be a tremendous help.

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Public Awareness Events

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:15

Public Awareness Events

Media attention generates leads and keeps your story in front of the public. The following ideas are also excellent ways to involve volunteers in the search campaign.

* Appear on radio and television programs to discuss your child's disappearance.

* Hold a press conference or other media event on your child's birthday or on the anniversary of the disappearance.

* Prepare press releases or make personal statements about the disappearance of a child in another community.

* Prepare press releases relating to Federal, State, or local legislation.

* Publish a letter to your child in your local newspaper.

* Ask radio stations throughout your State to play your child's favorite song and dedicate it to your child.

* Hold a rally at your child's school with music and prayers.

* Ask your child's school to organize a letter writing campaign to politicians, the media, or your State legislature.

* Organize student marches to distribute fliers or posters.

* Develop buttons or T-shirts with your child's picture and a special message to your child.

* Hold a prayer vigil.

* Hold a candlelight vigil.

* Organize a dance or a benefit auction.

* Give a special award to the law enforcement officer who served as your primary law enforcement contact.

* Ask sports teams in your area to include pictures of your child in their programs and to make public service announcements at all games.

* Plant a tree or dedicate a garden in your child's name.

* Release helium-filled balloons with your child's name and other relevant information printed on them.

* Hold bowling tournaments.

* Hold running, dance, or other types of marathons.

* Ask local businesses or banks to dedicate a Christmas tree or a display of lights in honor of your child.

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With the Media

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:16

With the Media

The most successful media interviews happen because of advance planning. If you know beforehand what points you want to get across, you are more likely to have a positive experience with the media. The following tips can help.

*
Articulate the most crucial information in every interview. Before you set up an interview, be sure you are ready. Be prepared to discuss information pertinent to the case -- but be sure that law enforcement has been consulted about what information can be released and what should remain confidential. Give essential information consistently to everyone in the media, especially the following items:

o
Pictures of your child, in both black and white and color, if possible.

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A description of the clothing your child was wearing and of the items your child had in his or her possession, such as a book bag, backpack, or bicycle, along with identifying characteristics and personal traits.

o
A telephone number for people to call in leads.

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Ask that your child's picture be included in every interview you grant. This is crucial, because often the only thing that is clearly known is what your child looks like. Make sure that the picture given to the media resembles your child and is suitable for distribution. Always hold up a picture of your child during an interview and insist that his or her face be shown as part of the story. Ask radio stations to include a description of your child as part of their story.

*
Limit the number of points you want to make and keep them simple. Organize your thoughts and ideas, perhaps by writing them down, before you speak to an interviewer. Stay as calm and focused as you can. Remember that you will be given a very small amount of air time. That means that the more you say, the less control you will have over what portion of an interview the media will play.

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Try to cover the most important points first and to contain your answers to 10- to 20-second "sound bites." Short answers are more likely to be used than long, drawn-out answers. Also, if you try to cover too much, you may find that your most important points are left out of the story.

*
Make your child real by sharing stories that show his or her wit, interests, and other endearing qualities. If you personalize your plea by showing favorite toys, telling short anecdotes, and airing representative videotapes of your child, people are more apt to listen and remember and to feel they have a reason to care about your plight. However, don't loan any original items to the media, because you may not get them back. Always label your child's pictures, videos, and possessions.

*
Keep control of the story. Be prepared to field difficult questions. Although many reporters have families and will empathize with you, their job is to give the public an interesting story. Some may appear to be skeptical of you -- at least initially -- because of well-publicized disappearances in which the parents turned out to be the culprits.

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Regardless of the questions asked, keep the story focused on your missing child. If a reporter digs a skeleton out of your closet, don't be afraid to say that a previous event has nothing to do with the present disappearance. You may need to point out that members of the same family can be totally different in terms of behavior, academic performance, and emotional maturity.

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Be patient with reporters, because many of them may be young and inexperienced. It is difficult for someone who is not yet a parent to imagine what you are going through. If you are asked an inappropriate question, don't answer it -- and don't explain why it is irrelevant.

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Do not lie to the media. If you are caught in a lie, reporters will never trust you again. But remember that you don't have to answer every question. The only reason you are giving an interview is to find your child. You don't have any obligation to help the media carry a story in a direction you don't want it to go. If you believe a question is insensitive or irrelevant, either say so and decline to answer or else give the information you want to present regardless of the question that was asked. Take control of the situation. Make the points you have to make and insist on getting your message across.

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Do not disclose information to the media that your law enforcement contact has told you to keep confidential. Consult with your law enforcement agency in advance to find out what information can be released and what information should remain private. Remember that there is no "off the record" comment. If reporters want confidential information, they will try to get it. Consider holding joint press conferences with law enforcement as a way to keep information flowing to the media yet protect confidential details.

*
Never publicly criticize law enforcement. Sometimes reporters ask questions intended to create controversy over law enforcement's handling of a case. Resist the temptation to criticize law enforcement, however, even if you are unhappy with something that has been done. You want the story to be about your child, not about a controversy with law enforcement. You also don't want to risk alienating the people who are spearheading the effort to find your child. Instead, channel any complaints you have through the appropriate law enforcement person or office.

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Re: What You Should Do When Your Child Is First Missing

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:17



Post Guest on Thu 16 Jul - 18:14
Photo and Flier Distribution
Chapter 4

The more people who know that your child is in danger and what your child looks like, the better the chances are that someone will recognize your child and report his or her whereabouts.

-- Claudine Ryce

Distributing pictures of and information about your missing child is an essential part of the search and recovery process. During the first 48 hours, it is critical that recent pictures of your child and facts pertinent to the disappearance be given to law enforcement, the news media, and nonprofit organizations and agencies. Physical traits and personality characteristics should also be described as specifically as possible. This chapter contains important tips about photo and flier distribution and can guide you through both the short- and long-term process.

Photo and Flier Distribution: The First 48 Hours

Search for the most recent pictures. Don't look for pictures in your scrapbook. See if your camera has undeveloped film in it, and if so, take it to be developed. Ask family members and friends if they have recent pictures or videos of your child from a birthday party, holiday celebration, sports event, or school outing. Almost always, your child's school will have a copy of the latest school picture or will be able to tell you the name and telephone number of the school photographer. Even a passport picture, school identification card, or driver's license is better than nothing.

Pick out pictures that most resemble your child. Remember that posters and fliers will show only the head, neck, and top of the shoulders. Candid shots are fine, as long as the facial image is clear. Several pictures from different angles may give people a better idea of what your child looks like. When selecting photos, keep the purpose in mind -- to enable people to recognize your child, not admire a poster that flatters but does not look like your child. For examples of fliers, a sample template, and other items that can be distributed, see the collage on pages 38-39.

Videos or home movies are excellent choices for airing on television. Videos capture your child's appearance, mannerisms, and voice quality. They offer the added advantage of engaging the hearts of viewers, who can relate to the image on the screen as a live personality. Such viewers are more likely to be on the lookout for your child or even to volunteer to help in the search effort.

Ask someone to have copies made of the pictures and videos you select. Photographs can be duplicated quickly by Eckerd Drug Store, K-Mart, Kinko's, PIP Printing, and most camera supply shops. Some businesses may give you a discount rate if you give them your child's case number showing that you have reported your child as missing to the police.

Put all photo originals and negatives in a safe place. Never give away your only copy of a picture, unless you don't care if you get it back.

If the picture was taken by a professional photographer, you may need to get permission to have the picture reproduced. Under most circumstances, professional photographers will be glad to help by giving permission to reproduce a picture once you explain your situation. Some may even reproduce the pictures for you free of charge, so don't be afraid to ask. At the same time, if possible, have the pictures digitized onto a floppy disk that can be used to send the picture by e-mail to nonprofit organizations across the country that have access to the Internet.

Put someone persuasive in charge of photo distribution. Ask your photo distribution coordinator to keep a log showing who was given a picture or videotape, then to follow up to make sure that the photographs were distributed. In addition to local media outlets, local civic and business groups, and volunteer groups, copies of your child's photograph can be sent to local government agencies. Permission can be obtained from county commissioners, agency officers, or whoever has authority to post your child's fliers in buses, at bus and subway stops, in tollbooths, at rest stops, and in Federal and State parks and buildings.1

Get as many individuals and organizations as possible to distribute your child's picture. Start with your neighbors and friends. Then call NCMEC, your State missing children's clearinghouse, and private, nonprofit missing children's organizations in your State and surrounding States, eventually blanketing the country. Ask them to distribute your child's picture through their networks and to display it on their Internet site. Make use of today's high-speed communication links to distribute your child's picture throughout the country.

If you are not hooked up to the Internet, contact someone who is. The Internet allows you to transmit clearer pictures of your child more quickly and less expensively than you could by fax. First, you must have your child's picture scanned and digitized -- that is, put on a computer disk. A print or computer shop can provide this service to you. Next, call individual organizations to obtain their e-mail addresses. Now, you can use your disk to simultaneously send your child's picture by e-mail to a wide variety of organizations. The alternative is to purchase separate color pictures and then send your child's picture to each organization via overnight mail, which is a far slower and more expensive process than digitizing and sending them via e-mail.

Ask your photo distribution coordinator to find out where your child's picture has been posted. Check the Internet sites of NCMEC, your State missing children's clearinghouse, and private missing children's organizations to find out where your child's picture has been distributed. Expand the area of distribution to cover the entire country during the second 24-hour period by including the U.S. Customs Service, Border Patrol, and Coast Guard.

Plug into NCMEC's photo distribution services. NCMEC posts photos of missing children on its World Wide Web site (www.missingkids.com). Each day, more than 440,000 "hits" are made on the site, and many companies and agencies have links to this site. In addition, NCMEC can coordinate national media exposure through its partnership with major newspapers, magazines, television networks, and corporations.

Ask your primary law enforcement contact to request that NCMEC send a broadcast fax to its network of law enforcement agencies. NCMEC has the capability to broadcast fax posters and other case-related information to more than 9,000 law enforcement agencies, FBI Field Offices, State missing children's clearinghouses, the Border Patrol, and medical examiners' offices throughout the country. NCMEC can send your child's picture to its network of agencies as soon as your law enforcement agency or the investigating agency makes a request. NCMEC case management personnel are available oncall to make emergency posters, broadcast faxes, and distribute photographic images in the evenings and on weekends.

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Photo and Flier Distribution: After the First 48 Hours

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:18

Photo and Flier Distribution: After the First 48 Hours


After the first 48 hours, draw on your imagination and the ideas of your many contacts to keep your child's picture and story alive before the public. Here are some ideas of what can be done.

Be creative and aggressive in getting your child's posters put up in heavily trafficked areas across the country. Get approval for your mail carrier to place fliers in mailboxes. Ask utility companies to distribute fliers as their meter readers make their routes. Ask churches to request that their members include your child's flier in Christmas cards and other letters. Ask banks and other groups that make regular mailings to include copies of your child's flier. Ask Federal Express, United Parcel Service, local pizza companies, and other delivery companies to distribute fliers on their routes. Ask trucking lines or moving companies to post pictures on the backs of their trucks. Ask airline pilot and flight attendant unions to request that members post fliers in cities where airline personnel lay over. Call motorcycle clubs and other groups that hold national meetings to see if their members will take along fliers for distribution. If anyone helping you has difficulty convincing a company to post or distribute your child's picture, you personally should get on the phone, because it is harder to say no to a victim parent. The checklist Distributing Fliers contains further tips for flier production and distribution.

Prepare a press kit for distribution to national news and talk shows and magazines. Ask local public relations firms or persons with writing ability to help you prepare the kit and to secure e-mail and street addresses. Be sure to include local and regional radio stations. Your law enforcement agency can also give you guidance on press kit preparation.

Look for events where volunteers can distribute fliers. Have volunteers research and make a list of events such as sports contests, county fairs, festivals, and concerts planned in your community, State, and region. Distribute fliers to those events as part of your overall canvassing plan.

Send press releases and arrange interviews during special or seasonal events. Consider celebrating your missing child's birthday by reading aloud cards or special messages you hope he or she will hear. Speak at what would have been your child's graduation from elementary or middle school. Distribute age-progressed photos of your child and updated case information to refresh people's memories and renew interest in your child's plight. Enlist the aid of celebrities and politicians who can help publicize your child's case.

Continue to work with NCMEC and its photo distribution program. More than 400 private-sector participants use NCMEC's print photographs, and a number of Federal agencies place NCMEC photos in their mail as well. ADVO, a direct-mail company, disseminates NCMEC's photographs of missing children to more than 70 million homes each week, with pictures of 52 different children issued each year. About one in seven children who have been featured in the ADVO photo distribution program have been recovered. Wal-Mart works with NCMEC to distribute fliers to its 2,800 individual stores on a monthly basis. In addition, the U.S. Postal Service has a photo distribution program in place that sends fliers by fax to post offices nationwide for display and for dissemination by mail carriers.

Make your own picture cards to insert in mass mailings. Get permission from government agencies, utility companies, and private businesses to have your card inserted in newspapers and envelopes containing State license renewals, tax assessments, local utility bills, payroll envelopes, and bank statements. Talk to direct-mail advertising companies to gain access to mass coupon mailings.

A Word About Fax Machines

If you do not own a fax machine, look for one you can rent or borrow, or get permission to use the fax number of a nearby business or police station. You can use it for quick and inexpensive communications with:

* Law enforcement.

* The news media.

* Missing child agencies.

* State missing children's clearinghouses.

* Other individuals and organizations that are willing to help.

When a face-to-face meeting cannot take place -- or if information needs to be disseminated quickly -- a fax machine can provide you with an important link to your law enforcement agency as you work together to prepare and review press releases, set up interview schedules, or provide lists of the names and telephone numbers of individuals who may hold clues to the whereabouts of your child. A fax machine in your home will also enable you to call organizations devoted to missing child issues, ask them to fax their intake forms to you, and then fill out, sign, and fax back the forms immediately.

Ask national groups for help. Ask law enforcement associations, women's auxiliary groups, civic groups such as the Rotary Club or Elks and Moose lodges, the Chamber of Commerce, military groups or associations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and college fraternities to distribute and post your child's poster or flier.

Ask a variety of franchise businesses to distribute posters through their normal supply lines. Consider especially various fast food and gasoline chains. Individuals who know who has abducted or who is holding your child may frequent liquor stores and adult bookstores more often than banks, post offices, and schools. Reward posters should be posted where people with information are most likely to see them.

Consider using publicity gimmicks to etch your child's face in the public's memory. Have your child's picture printed on buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, stamps, and baseball-type cards.

Appear on talk shows on the condition that your child's picture is shown during the program. Be sure that the subject of the talk show is compatible with the seriousness of your child's situation and that the show's topics and other guests can be verified prior to your appearance. Make sure that the storyline will help, not harm, you and your child. Steer clear of sensational shows that focus on serial child murders, child sexual exploitation, or other issues that can take the focus away from your case.

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Re: What You Should Do When Your Child Is First Missing

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:18

Photo and Flier Distribution
Chapter 4

Checklist: Distributing Fliers

Effective fliers creatively combine photographs with basic information about your child. The following checklist can help you develop strategies for increasing the visibility of your child's case and generating possible leads about the disappearance.

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Ask someone creative to take charge of flier and poster production. Friends, family members, and volunteers can help with this task. Your poster coordinator can ask local printers to produce fliers free or at a discount rate. You can also work through NCMEC, whose case managers are authorized to contact your local PIP Printing store and make arrangements for several hundred copies of fliers to be printed at no charge to the parent. Special requests for larger quantities have been granted for children who are in particular danger.

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Have fliers printed in different sizes for different purposes. Use different sizes for buttons, handouts, reward posters, mailings, and labels.

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Ask your primary law enforcement contact what telephone number should be published on the flier for people to use to call in tips. Because the purpose of fliers is to generate leads and tips relevant to your child's case, it is crucial to include a special phone number for readers to call. Often, law enforcement prefers to use a 24-hour hotline staffed by trained information takers rather than the local police telephone number, which may revert to voice mail or a beeper when no one is in the office. The NCMEC toll-free number can be used only after your child has been reported missing to NCMEC. Crime Stoppers and other reputable hotlines experienced in taking lead information are other possibilities. If you ask, Crime Stoppers may be willing to give and take reward information. Do not use your own telephone number or establish your own 800 number. You need to keep your own phone line free for your child or the person holding your child to call.

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Volunteers

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:19

Volunteers
Chapter 5

The many offers of support you receive in the first few days will carry you through. When people ask what they can do, try to tell them something specific. Tomorrow they may be gone, and you are likely to forget who made the offer.

-- Pat Sessions

One of the most heartwarming things you will experience is a tremendous outpouring of caring from family members, friends, and strangers. People of all races, nationalities, religions, and socioeconomic levels will offer you and your family emotional support, food and other gifts, and help in the search. In fact, volunteers are essential to the search process. They can and will play a variety of roles in the effort to find your child. This chapter offers suggestions for ways to involve volunteers in the search and ideas for managing offers to help.

Making the Best Use of Volunteers

To make the best use of volunteers, select a volunteer coordinator who is organized, efficient, and able to work well with and give direction to others. The role of the volunteer coordinator is not to handle volunteer activities directly, but rather to delegate to others management of specific activities, such as bringing food to the family, providing water for the searchers, and coordinating distribution of posters and fliers. Choose someone who is practical, well organized, and skilled in providing leadership.

Keep a running list -- or have someone keep a list for you -- of the things you need as they arise. If you keep your list current, new volunteers will always have a way to get involved, and returning volunteers will know where to go to find out what is needed next.

When someone offers to help, write down the person's name, telephone number, and type of service preferred. When your child is first missing, it is hard to think of what you need now, much less what you will need in the future. If you have no ready answer for someone who asks to help, write down specific information that will enable you to contact that person later with a particular task.

Don't be afraid to ask for what you need. No task is too small or too large. If you need something, the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask. You will be truly amazed by the amount of support you receive. People really do want to help.

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Re: What You Should Do When Your Child Is First Missing

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:20

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Re: What You Should Do When Your Child Is First Missing

Post Guest on Thu 16 Jul - 18:17
Tap into the network of resources that private clubs, businesses, and agencies have available to them. Many local clubs, businesses, and agencies can help in a variety of ways -- by donating items, distributing photographs and fliers, or participating in the search. Make a list of what you need, and see what each group can provide. Here are some of the types of organizations that may be willing to help:

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Rotary clubs and other civic organizations.

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Red Cross chapters.

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Local posts of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

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Local lodges.

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Churches and synagogues.

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Parent-teacher associations.

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Scout troops.

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Retiree organizations.

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Labor unions.

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Military installations.

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Printers.

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Paper suppliers.

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Pizza franchises.

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Fast food chains.

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Liquor store chains.

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Airline companies.

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Taxicab and bus companies.

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Trucking companies.

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Public and private transportation agencies.

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Hospitals.

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Colleges and universities.

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Political groups.

Be aware that some volunteers may want to become too involved, to get too intimate with the family, or to act beyond their designated responsibility. Some individuals seem to enjoy media attention. They try to shift the focus of attention away from your child and onto themselves. If you feel uncomfortable with anyone or anything for any reason, inform your volunteer coordinator or law enforcement contact. Also, don't use unknown volunteers to do personal tasks, such as washing laundry or helping with carpools. Instead, rely on friends or family members for these jobs.

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Re: What You Should Do When Your Child Is First Missing

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:20

Suggested Volunteer Activitiess

Volunteers can do many things for you. Let them. In doing so, you allow people to fulfill their desire to help, and you relieve yourself of the burden of trying to do everything yourself, which you cannot. The following activities are particularly well suited for volunteers.

* Participate in the physical search.

* Canvas area businesses for donations of supplies needed for the search effort or for the family's upkeep.

* Design posters or fliers.

* Tack up pictures and posters and hand out fliers.

* Contact nonprofit organizations, community groups, or other agencies in the community for donations or other assistance in producing or distributing posters.

* Keep track of all donated items and write thank-you notes.

* Answer the home telephone 24 hours a day and maintain a telephone log.

* Prepare meals.

* Help with household chores, such as cleaning, doing laundry, watering flowers, mowing the lawn, maintaining the yard, or shoveling the driveway.

* Run errands, such as shopping for groceries or going to the pharmacy.

* Take care of pets.

* Form prayer groups.

Using Untrained Volunteers in the Search Effort

Typically, law enforcement is the coordinating force behind the search, but volunteers often play a major role, especially in the immediate search of the 3- to 5-mile radius around where your child was last seen.

Designate a volunteer search coordinator to work with law enforcement. The volunteer search coordinator will need instruction from law enforcement to determine:

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How many nonpolice personnel will be needed in the search.

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What locations or areas are to be searched and on what schedule.

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What training will be provided to volunteers.

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How information will be disseminated among volunteers.

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What specific instructions will be given to volunteers about the process, procedures, and parameters of the search.

Even though private individuals, organizations, and businesses may be interested in helping with the search, it is usually easier to work with an organized group. Organized groups can quickly mobilize large, cohesive groups of searchers and can work through an already established chain of command that will reduce battles for leadership and control. Groups can choose their own team leaders, who can serve as a bridge between the volunteer search coordinator and the volunteer searchers. The volunteer search coordinator's task of conveying information to the volunteer searchers will be easier, because the team leader can be asked to explain to each group what needs to be done.

Law enforcement, the volunteer search coordinator, and the team leaders should work together to make sure that volunteers are doing what they are supposed to do. Sometimes, overwrought volunteer searchers go beyond their designated roles and responsibilities and may unwittingly impose themselves on the missing child's family. The checklist Working With Volunteer Searchers summarizes the most important points that need to be covered with volunteers.

Make sure that a list of the names and addresses of all volunteers is kept. You will need this list to write thank-you notes, and law enforcement may need it during the search and investigation.

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Working With Volunteer Searchers

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:21

Working With Volunteer Searchers

Post Guest on Thu 16 Jul - 18:18
Before the physical search for your child begins, your law enforcement agency will review important policies and procedures for volunteer searchers. The purpose is to make sure that the search is as thorough and effective as possible, that all clues and pieces of evidence are safeguarded, and that the safety of volunteers is protected. Some of the topics that will be discussed with the volunteer searchers include the following.

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Personal Items and Other Supplies for the Search. Based on time of day, climate, and terrain, searchers will be asked to bring with them -- or they may be provided with -- items for personal use or for use in the search. These items include water bottles, flashlights, batteries, sunscreen, insect repellent, maps, compasses, walkie-talkies, notebooks, and pens.

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Reporting Procedures. Procedures will be established for searchers to use when they report and sign in. The system may be as simple as signing a name or as elaborate as taking a picture or video.

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Search Procedures. Searchers will be given instructions concerning:

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What type of search is being conducted.

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What to do if clues or pieces of evidence are found.

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What to do if a searcher gets hurt or lost.

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Who is responsible for searchers in a particular area and what is the chain of command for reporting information.

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Rewards and Donations

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:22

Rewards and Donations
Chapter 6

A reward for the safe return of your child might be what it takes to persuade someone who knows something to speak up.

-- Don Ryce

It's hard to assess the true value of a reward in recovering a missing child. The offer of a reward might renew media interest in reporting on a missing child, or it might be the thing that motivates a person living on the fringe of society to call in a lead. Although rewards do not always produce the right leads or have the anticipated results, the use of a reward may be worth considering. This chapter discusses some important issues for you to think about before setting up a reward. It explains how to manage reward or donation funds correctly and where to go for help or advice.

Monetary Rewards

Regardless of the odds that a reward will work, most parents will want to offer one if they possibly can in an effort to turn over every stone in the search to find their missing child. However, many issues need to be considered before an informed decision about a reward can be made.

Get expert help. Because of the number of legal and technical issues that can arise from a reward offer, you need expert advice from a knowledgeable attorney, your primary law enforcement contact, your banker, and the parents of other missing children who have successfully established a reward fund. Make sure that the people who give you advice have firsthand experience managing a reward fund.

Be aware that your reward offer can become a legally enforceable contract. If you offer a reward, you are agreeing to pay a sum of money if a person's actions lead to the requested result. That means that anyone who complies with the terms of the offer can be legally entitled to claim the reward and can sue for its recovery. That's why you must be very careful in how you describe the terms of the reward offer. Sloppy language can result in serious legal problems. Ask an attorney for pro bono legal assistance.

Be prepared to meet resistance from law enforcement. Some law enforcement agencies disapprove of reward offers because they can result in a torrent of false leads. Keep law enforcement informed of any decision you make regarding a reward, and if you sense concern or resistance, point out that all it takes is one solid lead to recover your child. Also, the desire for reward money could motivate an abductor to keep a child alive.

Clearly state the purpose of the offer. First decide what you want the reward to accomplish, then make sure that this purpose is clearly spelled out in the offer. For example, it is a good idea to make your child's safe return a written condition of the reward. The better the description of the reward's purpose, the less likely it is that you will have to argue later over whether someone complied with the terms of the offer.

Set a time limit for the reward. One of the goals of a reward is to generate immediate results in order to get your child back quickly. In the beginning, you may want to keep the time limit fairly short and tie it to a significant event, such as your child's birthday. The drama of such a countdown could generate substantial public interest. Avoid open-ended rewards that can result in liability many years later. You can always renew the reward for a longer period of time.

Be careful in establishing the amount of the reward. Don't offer more money than you can afford to pay. Decide on the maximum amount of the reward in the first offer and stick to it, because if you raise the amount later, people may wait for a more lucrative offer before calling in a lead.

Check to see if special reward funds already exist. Sometimes State and local agencies -- and even the FBI -- have funds available to put up as a reward in cases involving predatory abduction. Ask your law enforcement contact to help you find out about such funds.

Be aware that monetary pledges are not as reliable as donations. It is much easier to persuade people to pledge money toward a reward than it is to get them to donate cash. Therefore, you can in theory raise much more money through pledges than you can through donations. The problem is that you cannot be sure that a pledge will be honored when the time comes to pay out the reward. If you use pledges, get the pledge in writing, pay attention to the expiration date of the pledge, and plan to spend a fair amount of time making sure your pledges are still legitimate. Pledges are not forever.

Do not use your personal funds to finance the reward. As hard as it may be, refrain from using your own personal funds for the reward. Based on the terms and conditions spelled out in the reward offer, you may be liable for payment of the reward, and you may even be sued. And though you may not realize it in the beginning, you may be faced with financial constraints months or years later, for example, if you are out of work for an extended period of time helping in the search for your child.



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Re: What You Should Do When Your Child Is First Missing

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:24

Rewards and Donations
Chapter 6

Checklist: Selecting a Tipline for Leads

Selecting a phone number for people to use to call in leads for the reward requires careful thought. Your home and business telephones should be reserved for your personal use, and the staff at NCMEC will not supply information about rewards, even though they operate a toll-free telephone line. Moreover, callers with leads have specific needs that must be addressed.

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Callers must be able to give anonymous tips. Some people will not call unless they can be assured of anonymity. Some tiplines assign a special number to each caller to ensure that a particular caller gets credit for the tip.

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Callers must be able to call 24 hours a day. Some people prefer to call after regular business hours. The telephone number you list should allow people to call at any hour of the day or night.

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Callers must be able to phone long distance without having to pay for the call. Some organizations offer an established toll-free telephone number you can use to gather tips or other information about your child. Crime Stoppers is one such organization that answers calls 24 hours a day, provides anonymity to callers, and has a good working relationship with law enforcement. Contact your local office of Crime Stoppers to learn more about that organization's system. Also, your local law enforcement agency and your State missing children's clearinghouse may be able to provide further guidance.

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The person who answers the phone must be able to handle this type of call. Answering a telephone tipline requires a special set of skills. People who answer tiplines need to know how to keep callers on the line, what questions to ask, and how to write down important information.

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Tips must be furnished to law enforcement immediately. Law enforcement is responsible for evaluating and following up on all tips -- not parents, family members, or friends. For this reason, all tips and lead information should be passed on immediately to law enforcement, including the circumstances surrounding them -- how they were made, who received them, at what time of day, and so forth.

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Personal and Family Considerations

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:24

Personal and Family Considerations


Not knowing where your child is or how he or she is being treated is one of the hardest things you will have to face. One minute you will feel a surge of hope, the next, a depth of despair that will threaten your very sanity. Life will become an emotional roller coaster that won't really stop until you can hold your child in your arms again.

As you enter more deeply into the nightmare, know that you are not alone. Unfortunately, other families have had to travel this path also and have experienced the same emotional wringer. Families can and do survive -- and yours will, too, but it will take all the strength, hope, and willpower you can muster.

Regaining Your Emotional and Physical Strength

Your ability to be strong and to help in the search for your child requires that you attend to your own physical and emotional needs. Although it may be hard right now for you to maintain your daily routine, it is paramount that you do so. The driving force behind the search effort is you, and therefore you must, for your child's sake, be physically and mentally well in order to handle it. The fact is, the nightmare will continue until your child is found, so you need to take as many breaks from it as you can.

Force yourself to eat and sleep. Your body needs food and sleep in order to endure this ordeal. Although eating and sleeping may seem incredibly difficult, you must try. If eating regular meals feels like too much of a drain or if it brings back painful memories of your child, change your meal times and locations. If you cannot sleep at night because you are nervous, tense, or afraid of nightmares, find a place to relax and nap during the day. Just make sure you are doing everything you can to take care of yourself.

Find time for physical exercise. Any type of physical activity, even walking the dog, can help to ease the stress on your body and clear your head. Physical exercise also can help you relax at night so your body gets the sleep it needs.

Create space for yourself. Find a place of refuge -- away from the pressure of the search and the investigation -- where you can be alone with your thoughts and regroup. Even a few quiet minutes can significantly relieve stress. It may help to walk in the park, visit your church or synagogue, or talk to a neighbor. Try to take as much time as you need and can spare. Remember that you are the best judge of what will help you to handle the life crisis and that it is okay -- even necessary -- to take a break from the stress for dinner and a walk.

Find ways to release your emotions. Your emotions will be running wild and will seem out of control. In these circumstances fear, anger, and grief can take over your entire existence. Therefore, you need to find a way to release your emotions because if you cannot express them, you may find yourself taking it out on others. Talk with someone -- a friend, a relative, or a professional therapist -- who will just listen. Also, try to stay busy. You can cook, write letters that express your feelings without mailing them, or record your thoughts and feelings in a journal.

Keep a journal. Some parents find it extremely helpful to keep track of their thoughts and feelings in a journal. Journal entries, which can be written or tape recorded, need not be coherent or intelligent. Their purpose is merely to record your thoughts and feelings at any particular time and to help you to resolve them.

Put your anger and grief to work for you. Come up with ideas for the search. For example, you can make a list of all of your child's friends, neighbors, and acquaintances -- anyone who might hold a clue as to the whereabouts of your child. You can make a list of places your child frequented or even occasionally visited -- anywhere law enforcement could look for your child. Finally, you can think of ways to release your emotions in a productive manner.

Stay away from alcohol and harmful medications. Alcoholic beverages, harmful drugs, and even prescription medications can prevent you from being an effective member of the search team and can even induce depression. However, if you are having trouble sleeping at night or coping during the day, ask your physician for help. He or she may prescribe a medication that will help you sleep or alleviate your depression. Just be sure that you only take medications under the supervision of a physician, because some can be addictive.

Don't blame yourself. Looking back, you may feel that there was something you could have done to have prevented your child's disappearance. You can literally drive yourself crazy asking, What if . . . ? But the fact is, if you did not arrange for the disappearance, you should not hold yourself responsible for not knowing or doing something that may seem obvious in hindsight. And remember, at least one child has been abducted out of the safety of her own bedroom while her parents slept in the room next door.

Don't shoulder the blame of others. Recognize that some people may blame you for the disappearance because of their own fears for their children. They may imply that if you had watched your child more closely, he or she would not have disappeared. Blaming you may make them feel somewhat safer in the world because they hold you -- and your supposed mistake -- responsible for your child's abduction, rather than the abductor. Also, sometimes one spouse blames the other for the disappearance of the child. This is hardly ever fair and can critically harm the well-being of the entire family. Try to stay out of the blame game by being kind to yourself and to one another. Understand that sometimes anger and blame are irrational and misplaced. Keep the lines of communication open among family members. If necessary, seek professional counseling or other outside assistance to help you handle the situation.

Stay united in your fight to find your child. Don't allow the stress of the investigation to drive a wedge into your family life. When emotions run wild, be careful that you do not lash out at or cast blame on others. Instead, give each other lots of warm hugs to counteract the stress inherent in the situation. Remember that everyone deals with crises and grief differently, so don't judge others because they do not respond to the disappearance in the same way you do.

Allow the opinions of other people to be their business, not yours. Some people need to have an opinion as to how well you are handling the situation and whether you should be acting differently. Keep in mind that such judgments are merely the opinions of others and that at any given moment, you are doing the best you possibly can.

Seek peer support for yourself and your family. Some parents find talking with other parents of missing children to be extremely beneficial. Sometimes it is enough to know that you are not alone and that someone else in the world truly understands. Consider contacting one of the parent authors of this Guide (listed in the back of this book) or a member of the Parent Resource Support Network. Call the Missing and Exploited Children's Program at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice (listed in the Additional Resources section of this Guide) to get in touch with any one of the parent authors or to contact the Parent Resource Support Network. You can also ask your law enforcement contact for a list of victim's advocates and local support groups. Nonprofit agencies or your State missing children's clearinghouse can also provide you with the names and phone numbers of parents who can help.

Seek professional counseling for yourself and your family. Professional counseling can be extremely helpful for parents and families to assist them in coping with their feelings of fear, depression, grief, isolation, anger, and despair. You may think that you and your family can or should get through the crisis alone, but you don't have to. Encourage family members to take care of themselves by seeking support and counseling. If you need assistance finding or paying for counseling, contact your local mental health agency or provider or ask another family member or friend to do this for you. If you are uncomfortable with professional counseling, consider another form of support -- from your clergy, a physician, a lay counselor, or a friend.

Seek peace and solace for yourself. Many parents find comfort in their faith and use it as a powerful incentive to survive this nightmare. The loneliness of grief diminishes somewhat for people who believe that they are not alone. Turning to -- or returning to -- religion can give parents the support and encouragement they need at this critical juncture in their lives.

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Mentally Preparing for the Long Term

Post  milly on Wed 2 Nov - 22:25

Mentally Preparing for the Long Term

As heartless as it may seem, your life and the lives of your children must go on. Although moving on with your life may seem impossible, you must do it -- for the good of yourself and your family. You will, of course, find that there is no such thing as "normal" life as you once knew it. Everything has changed, and has changed forever. And whatever the outcome, you will be dealing with this nightmare in some way for the rest of your life.

Going back to work is not abandonment of your child. If you need to return to work, you may feel extremely guilty. Try to remember that your child must have a home to return to and that you are working to provide that home for your child. When you return to work, find a quiet place where you can go to be alone or to cry. Your grief is likely to come unannounced, and you will need a place where you can express it. If your job requires a lot of concentration, which you are not able to give, look for another position that does not place as many demands on you. The American Hospice Foundation publication Grief at Work, listed in the Recommended Readings section of this Guide, has additional advice.

Focus on your emotional well-being. To keep yourself on a more even keel, continue individual and family counseling, and try to stay busy. You can immerse yourself in activities with your other children or volunteer to help in school, church, or the community. Don't isolate yourself. Many parent survivors try to help other parents by working through missing children's organizations or by starting a group of their own. The books and articles listed in the Recommended Readings section of this Guide have proven to be particularly helpful.

It's okay to laugh. A laugh can be as cleansing as a good cry. Laughter not only helps to release tension and emotion, it helps to restore normalcy to life.

Never stop looking. You will probably want to dedicate part of each day to your missing child. Use these hours to keep the search going and to keep the hope alive. You can set aside time to make phone calls, write letters, contact law enforcement, or do whatever you think will help in the search for your missing child.

Helping Your Children To Regain Their Physical and Emotional Strength

Your other children need your physical and emotional support now more than ever, but you may not be able to satisfy their needs. You may have barely enough energy to keep yourself going. You may feel that you are abandoning your lost child if you are not doing something every moment to find him or her. These are normal feelings. Consider getting additional support for your other children during this time of crisis. Here are some ideas.

Find a safety zone for your children. Find a safe place away from your home where your other children can be shielded from both the search effort and the media. This is especially important for young children, who still need to play and be themselves. Trusted friends and relatives can provide a reasonably normal, nurturing life for your children in a relatively stress-free environment, so this is a good time to let members of the extended family and friends assume a large part of the responsibility for their care. Just remember to maintain contact with your children -- both over the phone and with regular visits -- and to reassure them frequently how much you love them.

Consider letting your other children participate in the search. If it seems appropriate, you can allow your older children to actively participate in the search effort. However, it is important to consider their age, desire, and level of maturity and to respect their right to say no. If your children are young, you will need to decide how much information you want revealed and whether it is appropriate for them to participate in the search effort. In some cases, younger children have distributed balloons and fliers. If you decide to let your children participate, keep a gauge on how well they are handling the situation and be prepared to make changes, if necessary. Remember that there are both emotional and security issues to consider when your children participate in the search effort. Ask your law enforcement contact for advice.

Think twice about letting the media interview siblings. Interviews with the media can be extremely traumatic to the brothers and sisters of a missing child. Children are seldom prepared for the extremely personal or probing questions asked by insensitive or pushy media personnel. Remember that the media can and will be persistent, particularly given the sudden ascension of your family to "celebrity" status. Make sure that you supervise interviews and continue to set boundaries that are in your children's best interests.

Bring the needs of your other children into balance with those of your missing child. Focus on the needs of the children who are still at home. Remember that they, too, are trying to cope with their loss. Talk with your children about their feelings of fear, anger, hurt, and loss. Make them feel as important to you as your missing child. Encourage them to return to the interests and activities they enjoyed before the disappearance -- by playing with friends, participating in sports, or playing music.

Establish different routines to help your family cope. Family meetings can be an effective way to deal with the changes wrought by the disappearance. They offer family members a safe, nonjudgmental environment in which to voice feelings of fear, anger, and frustration. They also give family members an opportunity to keep one another informed about the ongoing investigation and involved in family decisionmaking.

Celebrate birthdays, holidays, and other special events. Young children will want to celebrate birthdays and holidays even when a brother or sister is missing. Plan ahead so you are not caught offguard by the intense emotional roller coaster that can accompany such events. You can, for example, try changing family holiday traditions and beginning new ones. Instead of throwing a big birthday party, you can eat cake and ice cream for breakfast and then open presents. If you have older children, instead of the traditional Christmas or Hanukkah celebration, you can go on a trip. Remember that your children need to have fun and that they want you to celebrate, even if your heart is not ready for it. Recognize, however, that you have personal limitations as to what you will be able to handle and that those limitations need to be respected. The secret is to plan ahead.

Allow all members of the family to talk about your missing child, about their emotional reactions to the situation, and about their loss. Don't let the absence of your child and your deep sense of loss become a taboo subject. Instead, let your children know that they can freely express their thoughts and feelings to you and that they will be met with love and acceptance. Let your children know that it is okay for everyone in the family -- including mom and dad -- to cry and that you can help each other by holding hands, giving each other a big hug or kiss, or getting each other a glass of water. Remember that even if you do not communicate with your children about your missing child, other children in the neighborhood will.

Don't be surprised if your other children's behavior drastically changes. Everyone in the family has suffered a tremendous shock. In these circumstances, bedwetting, stomach aches, depression, anger, sullenness, quietness, and truancy are common reactions. But by the same token, don't be alarmed if your child's behavior changes very little or not at all. Children, just as adults, react differently to the disappearance of a child.

Help your other children return to some type of normalcy by returning to school. Your children need the normalcy that the daily routine of school provides. But before your children go back to school, talk with them about what they want others to know. Make sure they understand that most people in your community already know what has happened. Listen to your child's thoughts and feelings about returning to school. Then, talk to your child's teachers and counselors to help them prepare for the return of your child.

Ask the school to bring counselors into the classroom both after the disappearance and when your child returns to school. Teachers and classmates of a missing child will also experience fear and grief. When your other children return to school, they and their friends -- and the friends of your missing child -- are bound to feel scared. Ask your law enforcement contact if an officer can go to the school to teach the children both how to recognize dangerous situations and how to get away. Ask teachers and counselors for their help in giving all of the children the support they need to deal with this crisis. The American Hospice Foundation publication Grief at School, listed in the Recommended Readings section of this Guide, has additional advice.

Ask other children who have faced similar difficulties to provide one-on-one support to your children. A number of sources can put you in touch with other families that have experienced the trauma of a missing child. Try calling your local law enforcement agency, your State missing children's clearinghouse, NCMEC, or other missing children's organizations. Your children may be more comfortable talking with a peer who has gone through a similar ordeal.

Seek professional counseling for your children. Your children are suffering just as intensely as you are and may need help dealing with feelings of fear, anger, and grief. Don't feel guilty that you cannot be their total support at this point in your life. Instead, look to others to help your children cope with the powerful emotions that follow the disappearance of a brother or sister.

Helping Extended Family Members To Regain Their Physical and Emotional Strength

The disappearance of a child affects many people -- grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. They, too, will experience deep emotional scars from the sudden loss. All of you will need the love and support of one another. Extended family members can do a number of things -- contribute to the search effort, take care of other children, or stay in close phone contact -- to help them work through the pain and grief of losing a relative.

If possible, include extended family members in the search effort. Extended family members can serve a variety of functions -- as spokesperson for the family, coordinator of media events, coordinator of volunteers, or coordinator of searchers. They can also develop and disseminate posters and fliers, contact missing children's organizations to request assistance, and gather information to give to law enforcement to help in the search and recovery effort.

Put a daily report on your answering machine to keep family members informed of progress in the search. Law enforcement should keep you informed about the investigation, but in many cases extended family members are left out of such discussions. They may, as a result, feel left out and unsure of what to do. Putting simple messages on your answering machine will keep distant family members informed. It also will save you time from having to make or receive phone calls and in the process will help to free up your telephone line in the event that your child or someone with a tip is trying to get through.

Don't try to provide emotional support to everyone in your family. It is not your job to be an emotional "rock" for the extended family. Instead, encourage family members to seek support and comfort from friends and other family members, from their church or synagogue, or from local mental health agencies, professional counselors, or other community resources. Let members of your family know that you are depending on them to help you through this ordeal.

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