First 2 days critical in finding missing children

What parents should do in the first 48 hours after a child goes missing

As investigators in Jacksonville search for missing 5-year-old Taylor Rose Williams, it's a chilling reminder that parents should know what to do in the event their child goes missing.

The first 48 hours of the search are critical to returning missing children home safely, according to the Office of Justice Programs.

While the investigation can be chaotic, there are important steps parents can take to help find the child as quickly as possible.

In the first 24 hours:

  • Immediately report the child missing to law enforcement.
  • Ask officers to add the child's name to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Persons File, send out a Be On Look Out, BOLO, and coordinate a search effort.
  • Ask for the name and number of the investigator assigned to your case.
  • Write a detailed description of your child, what they were wearing and anything you remember leading up to their disappearance.
  • Provide recent photos of the child in both black and white and in color. 
  • List any family, friends and acquaintances that might have more information. 
  • Call nonprofit organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 800-THE-LOST for help distribute your child's photo. 
  • Keep limited access to your home during the search.
  • Designate one person to answer phones and jot down names, numbers and information from calls.
  • Take care of yourself and your family.
  • In the second 24 hours:

  • Talk with investigators about the steps being taken in the search. Ensure law enforcement is following a response plan either through the FBI or NCMEC.
  • Ask police to broadcast the search to other law enforcement agencies across the country.
  • Parents may be asked to take a polygraph test as part of standard procedure.
  • Expand your list of contacts to anyone the child could have come in contact with or witnessed something including delivery drivers, yard or maintenance workers.
  • Look through personal calendars, community event calendars and newspapers in your area for any information or possible witnesses that could help investigators during the search.
  • Designate one person as a media spokesperson who will work with law enforcement to schedule press releases.
  • With the help of investigators, consider the use of a reward. If you do, report any and all extortion attempts to police.
  • Set up a second phone line with caller ID, call waiting and a trap-and-trace feature for investigators.
  • Provide your child's medical and dental records to law enforcement.
  • Take care of yourself and your family. Make a list of things volunteers can do to help.