Protecting the vulnerable

If you read through this blog at all you’ll discover that the mission of A Child is Missing (ACIM) is to protect the people in society who are most vulnerable. At the top of the list of those most vulnerable are, of course, elderly adults and children. This organization’s long-standing original mission was to find lost children and we have now evolved past simply finding the lost and have moved on to championing the measures necessary to assist in locating lost people.

ACIM also identifies specific groups that merit further need. Those afflicted with autism are one of those groups. Did you know that 1 in 68 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? Like many special needs children, autistic children are susceptible to accidents. For example, between 2009 and 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91 percent total U.S. deaths reported in children and children with autism age 14-and-younger are subsequent to wandering.

Children with ASD might have average intelligence but they usually have little interest in other people, a limited verbal vocabulary, experience intense self-stimulatory behaviors such as hand-flapping, under-react to pain and over-react to sounds, have very good gross motor skills and have weaknesses in fine motor skills.

Those symptoms become more problematic when the autistic child is considered a “runner.” Wandering in autism is defined as: when a person who needs supervision to be safe and also as the act of a person leaving a safe space which exposes them to potential dangers. This may also be referred to as elopement, bolting, fleeing and running. Most of us understand the communication issues that arise when encountering autistic children so it’s understandable the anxiety that may exist when rescuing autistic children wander.

While many of us understand the obstacles to communicating with autistic people, it’s likely that many of us don’t know how to effectively reach out to people with this this disability. When seconds count in locating a lost person, this can result in a tragic hindrance if care is not taken.

Many autistic children are non-verbal or may only repeat what they hear. They may only use hand gestures to communicate and may be argumentative and stubborn. They could appear to be under the influence of drugs or walk pigeon-toed. They may not recognize danger and may be slow to recognize police vehicles or badges. To complicate matters, they are attracted to shiny objects such as badges, handcuffs and even guns.

Responses that are likely to connect with autistic people are slow movements, reassurance they will not be harmed, using as few words as possible and always remembering to look for medical ID bracelets or cards. One of the most important things to remember when communicating is that autistic people are sensitive so touching them, even to offer your hand, is probably not a good idea.

Knowing how to swiftly and effectively communicate with autistic children can be the difference between finding and losing a child. That is a difference ACIM wants to make!


You can help

There’s a lot that goes on at A Child is Missing. We’re a lot more than just finding lost children. We also find the elderly and support anti-bullying initiatives. With all this going on, sometimes we just need to toss out some information that shows our accomplishments and catch us all up with the mission of the organization.

As of November 1, 2013, here are three impressive statistics of ACIM since it was established back in 1997:

  • We are working in conjunction with 5,048 law enforcement agencies nationwide;
  • We have been actively involved in 39,514 cases; and
  • We have placed 63,037,752 (that’s 63 million!) alert calls to date.


Numbers, however, could never really speak for all the work we do at A Child is Missing. Of course, each case is more than just a number, they represent people. There are faces behind every one of those numbers. Most importantly, every case and every number represents a family that has been reunited.

We think we have accomplished a lot as a non-profit organization that relies on outside funding. We know we can do more, though. While you can’t put a price on our services, we can’t produce anything for retail sale so we depend on private donations and government funding. It’s that last opportunity we want to bring to light here because we need your help.

U.S. House Bill H.R. 3388, known as The Child and Elderly Missing Alert Program, will provide valuable funding to further the reach of organizations like A Child is Missing. CEMAP is modeled after ACIM and the government’s proposed funding fills the gap between Amber, Silver and Blue Alerts. Passage of this bill will cover the hard costs of making the outgoing calls, support law enforcement with training sessions and establish community awareness meetings involving child safety is many areas.

Once the bill is passed, it doesn’t guarantee funding for A Child is Missing but ACIM founder Sherry Friedlander is one of the bill’s strongest supporters. The funding process would involve a competitive bid process and any submission must be from a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The funding would span five years.

While ACIM believes it would be a perfect fit for the funding, it’s more important to get the bill passed so that deserving organizations will have the chance to help more children and elderly. Representative Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida) are the sponsors of the bill in the House of Representatives. Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) are sponsors of the bill in the Senate. We urge you to contact your state’s legislator in support of the bill.

Just in case you missed how important our mission is, ACIM has assisted in more than 1,400 recoveries from New Castle County, Massachusetts to Aurora County, Colorado. We’re assisting law enforcement agencies from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Florida to the Brooklyn Park Police Department Minnesota.

People are missing in every state. Help us secure resources to find them.

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Never forgotten

Guest blogger Sherry Friedlander, Founder of A Child is Missing

In the course of our lifetimes we encounter thousands of people. Think about it. From Wal-Mart to our place of employment, we are likely to interact with hundreds of people per week. In life we never know who is going to make a difference and sometimes it takes a while to realize who has made a difference in our lives.

Rep Shaw

Pictured from left, U.S. Representive E. Clay Shaw (retired), Emily Shaw and Sherry Friedlander, A Child Is Missing

In 2001, Retired U.S. Representative E. Clay Shaw (FL) saw the need for A Child Is Missing alert program and how it could help find missing children, elderly (often with Alzheimer’s or dementia), disabled and others in need of emergency help.  The former mayor of Fort Lauderdale was in congress from 1981-2001 working to meet the needs of all Americans.Unexpectedly meeting the needs of ACIM, he awarded our organization an earmark (funding) that allowed ACIM to expand in Florida and into Rhode Island, Alaska and Ohio. Thrilled and surprised, we all rose to the occasion and moved forward meeting the needs of missing people. When ACIM had our 1,000 safe assisted recovery we invited Mr. Shaw to attend the ceremony at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and we presented him with a plaque and a very big “thank you.”

His comment to me was, “I didn’t know you remembered.”  That taught me that you can’t forget those who helped you along the way no matter how busy you are. Generosity should never go unnoticed, especially in a non-profit organization that relies on donations to meet the needs of the less fortunate.

Patrick Flavin is one of those people who believed in giving back. It rained buckets the day he sponsored a fundraiser for ACIM at his Riviera Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Still, it was the best party ever.  Formerly from Chicago, he was a lover of race horses, computer industry and, most importantly, people.  He believed in giving back and he proves it.

We were having a live auction at the fundraiser on a baseball that was autographed by a celebrity when Barbara Threet started biding and it got up to $1,400, which was out of her range. She looked up at Pat and pleaded, “Help me!” He bid $1,500 and won the ball with that bid. Barbara almost fainted when his kind gesture to help her. It didn’t stop there. Pat gave me the baseball back to auction off at another time.

The rain continued to come down on Fort Lauderdale Beach but the 100 guests or so huddled under the tent, belly to belly and butt to butt, continued to share a great time. Yes the food got wet, but Pat’s hospitality and outpouring of generosity made up for it.

All three of these wonderful people are deceased now but certainly not forgotten. Because of them, A Child is Missing is still reuniting children with parents and the elderly with their families. The philanthropy of Mr. Shaw, Pat and Barbara helped us to make a difference.

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Attention to details

So, A Child is Missing can place 1,000 calls in 60 seconds, process multiple cases simultaneously and work without jurisdictional boundaries. But, just how can it pull off such a feat?

It’s mostly in the details.A Child is Missing

First, there is the call to law enforcement to report a missing child, often autistic, or elderly, often with Alzheimer’s, or disabled person. That’s the first call everyone makes. The law enforcement agency then calls ACIM toll-free and the alert program goes to work on behalf of the victim.

A long list of pertinent information about the victim and the case is collected. Some of that information includes:

*Name of the law enforcement agency and city, county and state where it’s located;

*Name, birthdate, gender, nationality, height and weight of the missing person; and

*ACIM also obtains hair and eye color and a clothing description for basic alert purposes.

But A Child is Missing digs deeper because any detail could break a case and return home a loved one.

*Any scars, physical characteristics, or medical and psychological conditions to be aware of;

*Home address, including zip code, and location last seen with zip code if different than the residence; and

*Police department phone number for the public to call and report information. The goal, though, of ACIM is not just assisting the victim but also to aid law enforcement in the recovery of someone’s missing loved one;

*Case number or reference number assigned to the case and if there is water or wooded areas in the vicinity;

*Have friends and family been contacted? Has the person gone missing before? Is foul play, kidnapping or parental abduction suspected?

*If the missing person is a child, is the agency aware of any sexual predators within one mile of the last seen address?

A Child Is Missing also requests cell phone or beeper numbers to reach officers on the scene for additional information that will lead to a swift successful recovery.

From all these details, ACIM makes a recorded message and the location where the missing person was last seen is entered into a database of phone numbers of area residents and businesses that have been gathered. The message is then sent out to the community within a half-mile radius.

When any person is reported missing near water, urgency is heightened. The immediate area is canvassed with the message and the search area is expanded if the person has not been found. ACIM doesn’t quit after messages have been sent. It continues to work
with officers on the scene and/or the communications department until the missing person is found. It doesn’t stop until law enforcement stops.

After recovery, the agency calls ACIM to stop the search. ACIM then sends a case follow-up form to the officer/agency to document the conclusion of the case. The agency returns the form to ACIM for assistance in obtaining funding to continue offering services to law enforcement.

A Child is Missing doesn’t rest on accomplishments. A missing loved one can never be found too swiftly.

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Don’t let the name mislead you. A Child is Missing is not just about finding lost children. It’s much more.A Senior is Missing

Every missing person of any age is someone’s loved one. Every missing person touches someone’s life. That’s why A Child is Missing also has alert programs for the elderly and the disabled. We can probably all relate to cases in which elderly adults can be as innocent and helpless as a young child, and sometimes with the same mental or physical capacities.

We’ve all likely encountered two of the most dreaded afflictions of the elderly: Alzheimer’s and dementia. Maybe even directly in our own families. We’ve probably seen strong, independent adults lose battles with these diseases that attack their mental capacities, including their cherished memories and ability to communicate effectively.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people with some form of dementia are prone to wandering. Their primary “destinations” are home or work, often times to where they lived and worked when they were younger. Those “homes” or “places of work” may even be several states away.

They are also capable of becoming disoriented in seemingly familiar places, even as familiar as their current homes. To compound the problem, because dementia attacks the memory capacities, these adults may not remember their current address or even their names. Identification obviously then becomes one of the biggest obstacles of recovery. Worse yet, they may wander into the vicinity of a body of water.

In one success story from California, an alert from a mechanic at his place of business saved a 73-year-old elderly woman. The lady suffering from Alzheimer’s had gone missing the evening before and was found about five miles from her home. In this case, ACIM sent nearly 1,200 telephone alerts to the area to aid the search.

ACIM will also come to the aid of people who have become disabled, including people who have been beaten, are unconscious or who are suffering from memory loss. There may be other circumstances where A Child is Missing will become involved so if you think you need assistance, just pick up the telephone.

In any case, ACIM will come to the aid if requested by law enforcement. It’s important to remember that A Child is Missing is not an investigative service. Instead, it works with law enforcement to escalate awareness through its program alerts. The program alerts act as direct line Amber alerts.Name logo

We would all agree, no one should go missing. While no one wants to hear of a missing child, no one wants to get the call that their parents or grandparents have also gone missing. In many ways, an elderly person with diminished mental capacities is no different than a child. They are equally as vulnerable. They are equally as innocent. They are equally as scared. They can be equally as lost.

A Child is Missing makes no distinction between innocent victims. If you’re missing, we want you found!

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