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!


A simple thank-you!

It’s all about “thank you” and all the thanks we need is in the lives we save.

Have you noticed that people have lost many of the social skills that the 40-somethings and older learned from their parents? In a world of social media, e-mail and other digital communications, people have lost the face-to-face etiquette touch. We don’t write thank-you notes, birthday cards or Christmas cards anymore. We just pass by those who hold the door open for us without a second thought. It’s an oddity to find front-porch gatherings anymore. In some cases, we even text people from across the room!

Of course, there are exceptions. The exceptions that bind are, sadly, crises and disasters. As a nation, we came together after 9/11. We came to the rescue of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And, a missing person makes the nightly news, Amber alerts and gets us together in search parties.

Most of the time it’s in the latter cases that people take notice of the services provided by A Child is Missing. That’s okay, though. In a perfect world, our services wouldn’t be needed at all. In our flawed world, we hope our services are only needed sporadically but, unfortunately, we stay plenty busy finding lost kids and the elderly, plus issuing other varieties of community alerts. (See previous posts for more information.)

Here’s a little bit of what we’ve been up to since January 1, 2001. We have placed almost 64 million calls (yes, millions!). Of those, almost 40 million have been related to cases involving children and almost 13 million have been related to elderly alerts. ACIM has been involved in more than 40,000 cases leading to the millions of calls. How many individuals have been connected to these cases and calls? If you guessed almost 41,000 people, you would have been right!

Law enforcement agencies across the nation have credited ACIM with more than 1,417 successful save assisted recoveries. It’s estimated that A Child is Missing has also assisted in a significant number of unreported recoveries.

Again, our satisfaction comes knowing that we’ve reunited more than 1,400 families.

But our satisfaction isn’t just in the findings. We’re also proud to have trained more than 35,000 law enforcement officers in 8,000 agencies nationwide to be better equipped to find missing people. The old saying is: “The best offense is a good defense.” We contend, though, that our skilled defenders put criminals on the defensive. Until the criminals go away, we’ll continue to train.

We would not be as successful as we are, though, without caring communities and relentless law enforcement agencies. While we send out millions of notices through phone calls, faxes and e-mails, it’s the people on the scene in the affected communities that put their boots on the ground.

So, without further ado, “thank you” to all of you who have helped us the past 13 years. Even though we didn’t send you a thank-you note, please know that we appreciate all

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Every 40 Seconds

An alarming thought

This all began with a splash.

This wasn’t the “making a splash” anyone wants when they arrive on the scene, especially if you’re a parent.

Back in 1996, in Sunrise, Florida, a 4-year-old child had gone missing. No one wants a child to be missing, whether from a small neighborhood or from a large apartment complex, as in this case. No matter the scene, everyone wants to help. Three police officers came to the scene to begin the search for the missing child. Imagine searching a complex with 500 apartments in a time before smartphones, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Oh yeah, and time is obviously of the essence.

As the lieutenant quickly realized while trying to cover all that ground, they could not contact all these people at any efficient rate of speed. What did they do? They did it the old fashion way: door to door, losing precious time the whole way.

Unfortunately, this real-life incident didn’t end well. The child’s body was found the next day in the lake in the middle of the apartment complex. The following Saturday morning two ladies in different apartments had remembered hearing a splash in the lake but thought nothing about it until they were contacted later that day. It wasn’t their fault. Who thinks anything is out of the ordinary when they hear water splashing in Florida.

Unfortunately, this was not an exclusive report. These searches have become all too common.

Sherry Friedlander, the founder of A Child is Missing, found out too late that the rescue effort of this child lacked a computerized effort to centralize and mobilize the search. Sherry vowed not to stand by helpless. She had two high-speed computers of her own collecting dust. With the help of a friend in the military, she now had a mission: Find missing children.Name logo

From those two computers, Sherry has launched a nation-wide program assisting search teams find our most precious gifts, our children. ACIM can launch 1,000 alert calls in just 60 seconds via telephone and cell phone. If there is someone out there who uses faxes or pagers, ACIM accommodates. Imagine how that could have changed the outcome in Sunrise back in 1996.

Law enforcement has bought in. After all, the sole mission is to find the missing and any help is welcomed. Like on Facebook; follow on Twitter; watch on YouTube. ACIM is even still on MySpace. Find ACIM wherever is convenient for you to help the mission.

A child goes missing every 40 seconds in this country. Wouldn’t you want A Child is Missing on your side if it’s your son or daughter we’re looking for? A child missing is a horrible happening. No matter if you are the mother, father, relative, a community member or a law enforcement officer. Everyone is touched and affected for the rest of their lives. ACIM is making a difference. Check us out online and see for yourself!

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