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Keeping Your Cool If Your Kid Goes Missing

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A tape recording of a hysterical Nadya Suleman calling 911 elicited harsh criticism -- but how can anyone stay calm when their kid disappears?


"Oh God, I am going to kill myself. Oh God. I'm going to kill myself. I am going to kill myself."

Nadya Suleman, in a state of panic and almost hyperventilating, repeated this mantra so many times during the 911 call she made to report her son missing, the operator asked her to stop. Luckily, the boy was found safe with a nanny.

Suleman blamed her panic on raging hormones-- at the time of the call, she was carrying the octuplets.

Countless people have used this incident as another chance to "pile on" the much-maligned Suleman. But many moms defended her reaction. "Come on! Missing kid? Pregnancy hormones? That's a mix that would make anyone act like that!" said momlogic reader Mia.

Others are less forgiving, commenting, "As a parent, I am embarrassed by her."

But who hasn't turned away for a split second in a store or a park and suddenly not able to locate your kid? Most moms find it hard to keep it together when faced with a missing child -- even for only a minute. "I was at Target and my son went missing for, like, a second and I screamed his name in the middle of the store," one mom of a 5-year-old told momlogic, "I couldn't hold it together. I freaked." Another mom admitted when she couldn't find her daughter at a holiday party she stood at the front door and declared, "Nobody leaves this house!"  Apparently, the instinct to protect our children transcends any social graces.

Hopefully, you'll never need to call 911 in search of a child, but if you do, here are some tips from National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

  • If your child is missing from home, search the house -- checking closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside large appliances, and inside vehicles, including trunks ... wherever a child may crawl or hide.

  • If you still cannot find your child, immediately call your local law enforcement agency.

  • If your child disappears in a store, notify the store manager or security office. Then immediately call your local law enforcement agency. Many stores have a Code Adam plan of action -- if a child is missing in the store, employees immediately mobilize to look for the missing child.

  • When you call law enforcement, provide your child's name, date of birth, height, weight, and any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed that your child was missing and what clothing he or she was wearing.

  • Request that your child's name and identifying information be immediately entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Persons File.

  • After you have reported your child missing to law enforcement, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children on their toll-free telephone number: 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).

And when making a call to 911, remember to:

  • Stay calm. It's important to take a deep breath and not get excited. Any situation that requires 911 is, by definition, an emergency. The dispatcher or call-taker knows that and will try to move things along quickly, while still keeping things under control.

  • Know the location of the emergency and the number you are calling from.

  • As the call progresses, you will hear clicking -- do not hang up!

  • Wait for the call-taker to ask questions, then answer clearly and calmly.

  • If you reach a recording, listen to what it says. If the recording says your call cannot be completed, hang up and try again. If the recording says all call-takers are busy, wait! When the next call-taker or dispatcher is available to take the call, it will transfer you.

  • Let the call-taker guide the conversation. He or she is typing the information into a computer and may seem to be taking forever. There's a good chance, however, that emergency services are already being sent while you are still on the line.

  • Follow all directions. In some cases, the call-taker will give you directions. Listen carefully, follow each step exactly, and ask for clarification if you don't understand.

  • Keep your eyes open. You may be asked to describe victims, suspects, vehicles, or other parts of the scene.

  • Do not hang up the call until directed to do so by the call-taker.

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
Joanne March 11, 2009, 7:05 PM

Great post with great tips. I remember my little brother hiding under a bed and my whole family, who had friends and family over that day, spent over an hour looking for him all over the neighborhood. Turns out he had fallen asleep under the bed after he went there to hide because he was angry at someone.

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