By Alan and Shonna Hammond
A lost child is certainly a parental nightmare. Unexpected parent and child separation is, however, not only terrifying to the parents, but also the children. Most everyone has experienced the anxiety associated with the possibility of loosing a child, or becoming lost as a child, in a grocery store, department store, or at the mall. If the emotion felt by a parent at the first realization that a child is missing could somehow be turned into energy, it would be more powerful than an atomic bomb. At that moment, it is critical that parents channel that energy in the correct direction and make good decisions. Most of the time, the child has simply become lost within the store, and the worst is not to be feared; however, it is not the time for taking chances with the law of averages. Here are some tips on what action to take when the child first becomes lost, along with some preventive measures.
The first thing to do is size up your situation. Most department stores and other retailers have policies in place to assist parents in locating lost children. Many stores follow the “Code Adam” policy. Code Adam was established in 1994, several years after the disappearance of Adam Walsh, a six-year-old boy abducted from a Florida shopping mall in 1981. He was later found murdered. Due to the nationwide attention to Adam’s abduction, Code Adam was established.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in the Code Adam program, the following steps are followed by employees of each participating business:
1) When a child is reported missing, store personnel obtain a detailed description of the child.
2) The employee who receives the information then announces a “Code Adam” to all other employees along with the detailed description of the child. Assigned employees monitor the front exits while others begin looking for the child.
3) Law enforcement officers are contacted if the child is not found within the first ten minutes.
4) If the child is located and appears to be well and unharmed, he/she is reunited with the reporting family member(s).
5) Should the child have been found in the company of an unknown person, efforts to detain the person are undertaken without putting anyone at risk of harm. Law enforcement personnel are contacted and provided with a description of the person.
6) The Code Adam is cancelled after the child is found or upon arrival of law enforcement.
If a business participates in the Code Adam program, a decal will be visible in a front window or entrance. If a business does not use the Code Adam program and a parent finds that a child is missing, locate the nearest available employee and either direct them to contact law enforcement, or take you to the nearest telephone to do so yourself.
Again, know your surroundings before a child becomes missing. Ask a store manager if the business has program or policy in place in case a child becomes missing. Survey the area and determine if there would be enough employees present to begin a search of the building. If you are in a small store with few employees, develop a plan of action, a “worst case” scenario. Locate the exits, where a child could best hide, locate the nearest telephone and who can help you search.
Regardless of the store size, or no matter where you may be, knowing ahead of time what you would do in case your child becomes lost will shorten the time of indecision, as well as lessen the heightened anxiety. There is a lot to be learned from the Code Adam program, as there are several good things to do in any situation where your child is lost. Above all else, if your child is missing do not panic. Hysteria will prevent proper communication with law enforcement and anyone you hope to assist you at a time when parents need to be their most articulate.
No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2006