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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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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