If Your Child Is Missing

Act immediately if you believe your child is missing.

Download the checklist below of actions to be taken by families in the initial stages of a missing child case. If you have any questions call the NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678) or through the Live Hotline.

What to do if your child is missing

  1. Immediately call your local law enforcement agency.
  2. After you have reported your child missing to law enforcement, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
  3. If your child is missing from home, search through:
    • Closets.
    • Piles of laundry.
    • In and under beds.
    • Inside large appliances.
    • Vehicles – including trunks.
    • Anywhere else that a child may crawl or hide.
  4. Notify the store manager or security office if your child cannot be found when in a store. Then immediately call your local law enforcement agency.
  5. Many stores have a Code Adam plan of action in place.


When you call law enforcement:

  • Provide law enforcement with your child’s name, date of birth, height, weight and descriptions of any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed your child was missing and what clothing he or she was wearing.
  • Request law enforcement authorities immediately enter your child’s name and identifying information into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center Missing Person File.

If your child is displaced during a disaster, immediately call your local law enforcement. Then fill out an Unaccompanied Minors Registry form. This tool lets NCMEC assist emergency management personnel on the ground in their efforts to reunite families during disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes or terrorist attacks.

How NCMEC can help

When you call NCMEC, a Call Center specialist will record information about your child. A NCMEC case management team will next work directly with your family and the law enforcement agency investigating your case. They will offer technical assistance tailored to your case to help ensure all available search and recovery methods are used. As appropriate NCMEC case management teams:

    • Rapidly create and disseminate posters to help generate leads.
    • Rapidly review, analyze and disseminate leads received on 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) to the investigating law enforcement agency.
    • Communicate with federal agencies to provide services to assist in the location and recovery of missing children.
    • Provide peer support, resources and empowerment from trained volunteers who have experienced a missing child incident in their own family.
    • Provide families with access to referrals they may use to help process any emotional or counseling needs.



Important resources and actions to take

PDF – Missing-Child, Emergency-Response, Quick-Reference Guide (English)

PDF – Missing-Child, Emergency-Response, Quick-Reference Guide (Spanish)


family survival guide screenshot


PDF – When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide Booklet (English)

PDF – When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide Booklet (Spanish)