When it comes to keeping your child safe, strangers are not the only potential threat that parents should be concerned about. In fact, family and parental abductions account for the majority of missing children cases.

The following guidelines provide specific tips for what to do when you know or suspect that your child has been abducted by a family member. These are guidelines only and are not intended to be followed step-by-step.

If Your Child Runs Away or Goes Missing

  • Immediately contact your local police agency. They will decide whether to issue an Amber Alert.
  • File a missing persons report--as soon as you discover your child is missing.
  • There is no mandatory waiting period.
  • Then contact the Polly Klaas® Foundation.

24/7 Help-Line

Phone: 800-587-4357

Email, click here.

1. Report your child's disappearance to the law enforcement officials

NOTE: There is no mandatory waiting period to report your child as missing. This is mandated by the National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 (attachment A). This includes runaways.

When reporting your missing child to the police, make sure to:

  • Obtain a case number.
  • Ask who will be handling the investigation and obtain phone number also.
  • Ask that your child be immediately entered into the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC), and obtain the nine-digit NCIC number. It should be preceded by the letter "M."
  • Provide photographs of child and abducting parent, if possible. Make sure you have several copies of the photograph. If you don't, have copies made immediately at your local photography shop.
  • Identify the responsible law enforcement agency (usually District Attorney) and contact them. Ask what must be done to secure assistance.
  • Request that the District Attorney issue a warrant as quickly as possible. This is very important in obtaining assistance from both law enforcement and child-find agencies.
  • If the custodial parent has disappeared with the child, the non-custodial parent may initiate a missing person's investigation by the local police by filing a missing person's report. Provide police with a copy of the custody order. Deal with any custody questions immediately. If custody has not been established, attempt to do so.
  • Find out what your rights are and enforce them. You may need to obtain legal advice, as laws differ from state to state.
  • Ask the law enforcement agency or other authorized person in your state (such as the District Attorney's office) to use the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) to attempt to locate the abducting parent. (Use of FPLS is authorized by the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.)
  • Make sure the law enforcement agency and your attorney are knowledgeable about the laws pertaining to family abduction, Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP) warrants, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act of 1968 and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980 (Attachment "B").
  • Notify law enforcement of any special circumstances that indicate clear risk to your child. This could be your child's special medical or mental condition, drug abuse or mental problems of the abducting parent, previous documented child abuse or violence by the abducting parent, threats of violence against the child by the abducting parent or other special circumstances. Obtain documentation on any medical condition from an authority such as Child Protective Services to validate your claim.
  • Request assistance from the FBI if you have custody, either directly or through your reporting law enforcement. Please note that, if a victim is held more than 24 hours, the law creates a refutable presumption that he or she has been taken across state lines. This clause allows the FBI and other federal authorities to investigate, but, if the facts later show that state lines were not crossed, federal charges will be dropped. If abductor's family or friends are suspected of assisting in the abduction, ask law enforcement to advise them of criminal penalties.

2. Keep the lines of communications open

  • You will want to make yourself available at all times in case a lead comes through on your child's case.
  • Keep a notebook by the phone at all times to record the calls you make and information you get from agencies, friends, relatives, police, etc. Keep another notebook to record information you receive while out of the house. Make sure to note the caller's full name and phone number in case you have to call them back. This information could possibly help law enforcement agencies with their investigation.
  • Obtain call waiting on your phone. Attempt to have someone by the phone at all times.
  • Purchase or borrow an answering machine or sign up for an answering service such as voice mail. Leave a message for the missing child. You might also leave a message on your answering machine saying that you will accept collect calls from your child or leads on the whereabouts of your child.
  • Obtain call forwarding if you have a cellular phone and forward calls to your cellular phone when you have to leave the house.
  • Consider purchasing or renting a pager so you can be reached immediately by law enforcement or others participating in the search.

3. Who else to contact besides the police

In addition to reporting your missing child to the police, you should contact the following resources to cover your bases and get as much public exposure as possible for your child's case:

  • Contact the Polly Klaas® Foundation for assistance in finding your child, and for personalized missing child posters for your child that can be distributed in your town and on our website.
  • Report your child's abduction to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) (800) 843-5678. Ask them to send you a copy of their publication on Family Abductions as quickly as possible. If you suspect the child has been taken out of the country also request a copy of International Parental Child Abduction handbook be sent to you.
  • List information on your child and the abductor with your State Missing Children's Clearinghouse. Ask for their advice and assistance. Also list the information with clearinghouses in any states to which you believe the abductor and child may have fled.
  • Ask local media to air pictures of missing child and abductor. Ask law enforcement to verify case information for the media.
  • Question all relatives, friends, and co-workers of the abducting parent. Be concerned but non-threatening in your approach.
  • Notify border patrols. Ask you local law enforcement agency or child-find agency to provide these numbers.
  • Call the U.S. State Department's Office of Passport and Advisory Services (202-955-0377) and request that they refuse to issue a passport to your child. Make sure your child's name is entered into the State Department's passport name check system. This will allow notification to you if a request for a passport has been received. They will, however be unable to revoke a passport if it is already issued.

4. Be strategic in your search

You can help law enforcement officials with the search for your child by doing some detective work and outreach of your own:

  • Attempt to get a copy of the abductor's phone bills to note and follow up on any out-of-area calls.
  • Check with hospitals, pediatricians and clinics to see if anyone has brought your child in for treatment.
  • "Flag" your child's school records and ask to be notified if a new school requests those records from the old school. This might have to be done in writing.
  • "Flag" your child's birth certificate and ask to be notified if anyone requests a copy. Call or go to the records office in the county of your child's birth.
  • "Flag" your child's medical and dental records and ask to be notified if anyone requests a copy.
  • Question the abductor's employer to see if his/her last paycheck has been forwarded and/or if there have been any requests for job references.
  • Check with the abductor's bank to see if an account has been closed or transferred. Ask for law enforcement assistance in tracking any cashed checks or ATM withdrawals.
  • Check with the post office to see if mail is being forwarded.
  • Contact credit card companies for change of address or transactions that may indicate whereabouts of the abductor.
  • Check with airline companies and airport police for child's/abductor's name on any passenger records.
  • Check at bus and train stations to see if tickets were purchased by the abductor.
  • Check with state Motor Vehicle Bureaus to inquire about car registration and licenses in the name of the abductor. (Some states are required to notify individuals of such inquiries. Check first to be sure the abductor will not be notified of your inquiry.)
  • If the abductor's automobile is still being financed, check with the finance company to get current address or where payments are being made from.
  • If the abductor is a member of a union, check to see if he/she has advised them of any change of address or if he/she has applied for union work in another location.
  • If the abductor is a member of any registry (such as registered nurse or technician), check with registry to see if any change of address has been reported or if he/she has applied for positions or had information sent anywhere.
  • Check on change of address for any pension funds.
  • "Flag" records which may be requested by the abductor such as court records, insurance policies, passports and visas, college transcripts, military records, voter registration records, medical records, workers' compensation files.
  • Remember the abductor's hobbies and interests for clues to a possible destination. Check on magazine subscriptions, club memberships, etc., for address changes or new memberships.
  • Check with utility companies in any location where the abductor might have gone to see if he/she has had utilities connected.
  • If the abductor is on public assistance of any kind, check with agencies for forwarding address for mailing of check. Check to see if the abductor has applied for public assistance in a new location.
  • Check with the IRS to see if your child has been claimed as a dependent.

NOTE: Some of the items listed above will require the assistance of law enforcement. Credit card companies, for example, may not release information to you. Keep records of all the information you uncover and provide that information to law enforcement.


Abducted & Missing Children Recovery Project

24/7 Hot-Line:

  • Talk to a live person: 800-587-4357
  • Help by Email, click here.

Additional child search information:

Make Your Own Flyer

Our caseworkers often make and distribute professional flyers for families. However, some families pefer to make their own.