"These things we do ...

Long Island Search and Rescue

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Tips for Parents


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Not knowing where your child is, is one of the most traumatic events a parent can experience.  What you do in the first few minutes is absolutely critical to ensuring your child's safe return.  Many parents have the false sense of security that their child will never get lost; either they feel that the child is old enough to know better, has never wandered away before, or is always by their side.  The reality is ever year, these are exactly some of the children that go missing...and it happens in the flash of a minute.

It could be at the local mall where the child sees something and goes to investigate, while the parent is distracted by something they are looking at and doesn't realize the child has walked away.  It could be out on a family trip to a park or while camping, it could be in their own neighborhood.  In the midst of a downtown metropolitan area or in the wilds of the great outdoors, children have gone missing from every conceivable location and activity.

We've listed some information below to help you should you ever be in the unfortunate situation of not knowing where your child is.


Be Prepared in case your child gets lost.

Prepare a “Child ID Kit” for each of your children.  It should include the following items:

1.     Use a folder or large manila envelope labeled with the child’s name. (one per child)

2.   Include a current 4”x6” or 8”x10” color photo with the child’s name and the date the photo was taken written on the back.  Preferably include several recent photos (within past 12 months) and include at least one school photo (head shot) and one full body length photo.

3.      Photocopy of birth certificate.

4.      Photocopy of Dental Records and name, address, and phone number of current dentist.  Dental x-rays should be updated annually and readily available from your dentist upon request.

5.      Photocopy of medical record “face sheet” with summary of pertinent medical data and name, address, and phone number of current doctor.  It should also include a list of ongoing/chronic medical conditions and/or prescription medication(s).

6.      Photocopies of any custodial agreements or court orders related to the custody, placement, and/or visitation rights of the parents.

7.      Information about your child: Full name, nick name(s), birth date, gender, weight, height, hair color, eye color, skin complexion (freckles, light skinned, dark skinned, etc), school name and grade, ethnicity, and blood type.  It should also include and identifying information such as moles, scars, birthmarks, and any physical deformities or physical handicaps/impediments.

8.      Fingerprint cards

9.      DNA Samples

 Click here for more information on Child ID Kits

The Child ID kit is an immense aid to law enforcement, fire departments, and search and rescue to begin immediate searching for your missing child.  Having this information assembled in advance saves precious time and allows searchers to quickly disseminate critical information to the search party.

Each child should have a complete kit made and stored in a safe location such as a file cabinet or safe that is readily accessible to the parent.   Any photos included in the kit should show the child’s face clearly from the front, and should not be obscured by any other objects in the photo.  The photos should be updated annually to ensure they are as accurate as possible.

It is extremely important that you include copies of any custodial agreements, court orders, judgments, or restraining orders if you are a divorced or a single parent and your child/children have been taken by the other parent.  This information is critical and you must be able to show police the guidelines of the other parent/caregivers'  custodial agreement.

Fingerprints are an excellent addition to the kit and can be obtained from numerous sources.  Frequently at local law enforcement is present at community events and festivals to provide fingerprint and photo kits for a nominal fee or for free.  You can always contact your local police department as well to obtain fingerprints for your children.

If you are going camping or hiking another excellent tip would be to bring a roll of tin foil with you so that you can take shoe prints of your child's foot.  This can be a fun start to the outdoors by having them stand on a fresh sheet of foil, either on concrete or a flat surface such as a picnic table, and making an impression of their shoes into the foil.  These sheets can then be placed back into the car until you return home.  Make sure to write each child’s name on the sheet with their prints.  If they become lost, searchers will be able to determine if any footprints found belong to your child, and help them track the child’s path or obtain the direction of travel.

The last step is obtaining a DNA sample from the child.  This is not nearly as difficult as it may sound, and in fact is relatively easy.  The DNA samples must be stored in a paper envelope to ensure the sample are not destroyed by moisture from being enclosed in a plastic container.  There are two simple methods for collecting the sample, the first would be fingernail clippings and the second would be hair.  To collect fingernail clippings ensure the nail clipper has been thoroughly cleaned beforehand using a cotton swab (Q-Tip) and alcohol.  Then wash and dry the child’s hands thoroughly (after a bath may be the easiest).  Additionally you may also use a hair sample.  You can collect loose hair that falls out naturally by combing the child’s hair with a new, clean brush.  The ideal hair samples include the bulb at the end of the hair follicle near the root.  Once collected, ensure the sample is dry and then seal in a paper envelope by taping the flap.  Do not lick or glue the envelope as the moisture or your DNA may compromise the sample.

Another method, while a little more labor intensive, yields the best sample.  This would be obtaining an oral swab.  To do this you will need a clean cotton swab (Q-Tip), and half of a page of clean paper (4”x6”).  Begin by having the child brush their teeth and rinse the mouth thoroughly.  Take the clean cotton swab and roll it across the inside of both cheeks.  Place the wet cotton swab on the clean paper and allow to dry completely.  Once dry, fold the paper tightly around the cotton swab and tape together with a single piece of tape so the paper won’t unravel.  This will ensure the epithelial skin cells will remain in concentration as they dry up and fall off of the cotton swab.  If the cells fall off and are allowed to spread inside, say an envelope, the concentration of skin cells may not be enough to obtain a good sample.

      What to do if your child gets lost

~From Parenting Magazine, August 2002 issue. By Betsy Rubiner and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

1. Calm Down - Panic is not going to help your child. It may even slow down the search. Take a deep breath. Count to ten or do whatever it takes so you can concentrate on finding your child.

2. Secure Siblings - If you have other children with you, find someone to watch them. Leave them with another adult in the party or the store manager or another trustworthy adult.

3. Use Your Voice and Search -  Your lost child can’t see you, but they may be able to hear you. Call out, using calm, not panicky tone. Tell them that everything will be ok and that they should stay put. You will come and find them. Search your home and check with relatives, neighbors and friends.

4. Get Help -  Notify security guards, the store manager, life guards and other employees. Large malls, beaches and theme parks often have standard search procedures.

5. Call The Police -  If your child isn’t found within several minutes, contact the police.   Give your name and location and ask that they send help. Limit access to your home until law enforcement officers arrive and are able to collect evidence

6. Go Public -    If there is a public address system, ask that it be used to announce that a child has been lost. You’ll get more eyes and ears on your side, and on the remote chance that your child is being abducted, the page may alert others to intervene. It should note the child’s first name and appearance but not be directed towards the child.

7. Give Details -   Tell the search party what your child was wearing and carrying and when and where you last saw them.  Give them a complete physical description.

8. Look Actively -   Trace your steps back to where you last saw the child or to a spot that he is drawn to, like the dinosaur exhibit at the museum.

9. Go National -   Request that your child's name and identifying information be immediately entered in the National Crime Information Center Missing Person file.  Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children ( NCMEC) at 1-800- THE-LOST to find out what resources are available.