A missing child: What to do?
In the case of a missing child, it is the most nerve-wracking experience for a parent to look for their kid to no avail. Even just a few seconds of uncertainty about your child’s whereabouts can be torturous. This is one of the reasons why iER puts an emergency panic button right onto your mobile phone – to ensure swift responses from the proper authorities in an emergency or scary situation.
Unfortunately, the statistics in SA are terrifying. According to the figures released by the South African Police Service Missing Persons Bureau, in South Africa, a child disappears every five hours.
According to Missing Children South Africa’s statistics, only 77% of children are found. The other 23% of the children are never uncovered.
Even scarier, child trafficking is a global problem. UNICEF and World Concern estimates that as many as 1.2 million children are trafficked every year.
“Children and their families are often unaware of the dangers of trafficking, believing that better employment and lives lie in other countries”, the site says. The reality is shocking and undeniable, and there is a tremendous demand for children to be traded into forced (cheap) labour or for sexual exploitation.
Missing Children South Africa plays a hugely important role in the safe recovery of missing children throughout South Africa.
What to do immediately
If your child goes missing in a public space, alert security and management as soon as possible if your child goes missing. They have the authority to seal off any exits of the public space. If there is a public address system, ask for an announcement to be made. The announcement must include the child’s name, what they look like and what they are wearing.
Call the police
There is a misconception that a person must be missing 24 hours before you can call the police. In an emergency, time is valuable. Contact the police immediately after you discover your child is missing.
Make a report at the nearest police station. The South African Police Services (SAPS) advise the following:
- Produce a recent photograph of your missing child.
- Describe your missing child – their last whereabouts, clothes they wore and other helpful information to assist the investigating officer.
- Complete a SAPS 55(A) form. The form protects SAPS from hoax reports and indemnifies them to distribute the photograph and information of your child.
- Ask for the investigating officers’ contact details to send any additional information.
- If you find a missing child, or they voluntarily return home, inform the investigating officer. Complete a SAPS 92 form to alert the Bureau of Missing Persons. Remove the missing person’s report from the circulation system.
Use social media
Facebook and Twitter are great tools for making the public aware that your child is missing. You can post a photo, age and identifying information, as well as your contact details. Missing Children South Africa can circulate the information to their networks too.
Social media users can report the missing child to the police first. Many responses and tip-offs come from the public. It is imperative not to neglect this channel.
Prevention is better than response.
Speak to your kids about safety, particularly ‘stranger danger’.
“Stranger danger” is the idea that strangers can potentially be dangerous. The technique taught to kids is that they should shout this phrase when encountering an adult that makes them feel uncomfortable. They scream, in order to draw attention to the situation so that the adult, if a perpetrator, is deterred.
Here are a few more tips to ensure your child’s safety:
- Tell your child what might happen to them if they go missing.
- Teach your child to avoid disappearing with strangers. Explain the different situations that they may be approached with and how to respond. For example, if a stranger wants to show your child something, they must ask their guardian for permission first.
- Tell your child that not all strangers are bad. When they are lost are scared, they can approach people in uniform, information desks or mothers with children.
- If anything feels wrong with your child, tell them to make a fuss. They can ask for help at the nearest shop or home. If dragged away, they can fight and scream.
- A ‘safe word’ can save your child’s life. If you send another person to fetch your child from school, share the ‘safe word’ with them to tell your child.
- When your child is old enough, teach them your phone number. In a public space with lots of people, write your number on their arm in permanent marker.
- Between you and your child, have specific rules for different circumstances. For example, your child can walk to a neighbour, but you need to know their whereabouts at all times. Please find out the places your child may go or things they may do and teach them how to be safe in those situations.
By following the guidelines above, you can improve your chances of finding a missing child or preventing them from going missing. Our children are our priority.
iER offers members three different plan options. The Standard plan allows full and free access to the network’s service providers. Upgrading your package will give you access to iER’s full cover.
You can upgrade to a Premium Plan and Premium Plan Plus. These plans offer extras for post-emergency protocol at a nominal fee.