Back to home page

How to Help a Parentally-Abducted Child

You may at some point of time meet or come across a child who has been abducted by their parent. There are certain signs which may tip you off to something not being quite right. Be familiar with the National Missing Children Database as well as Current Cases of missing children. Particularly in parental child abduction cases, children are often moved from place to place and could appear in your community for a short period of time.

The following are examples of things that you may observe. They are examples only and the presence of one or more of these signs does not mean a child has been abducted by their parent. You must use your judgement and knowledge of the situation, and follow your instincts before reaching any conclusions.

Potential Signs:1

If a child:

  • Is not enrolled in school

  • Isn’t allowed to participate in community activities or make close friends

  • Is reluctant to share information or is suspicious of people

  • Changes their story or name from time to time

  • Says that their other parent is dead but is vague on details

  • Believes their other parent no longer wants them

  • Is being closely watched or protected by the parent they are with

  • Seems to be short of money, clothing, shelter or food

  • Appears to have had their appearance altered (for example, dyed hair in a young child)

  • Their parent is unable or reluctant to provide records for the child (for example school, medical, dental, immunization, etc.)

Please consider taking the following steps:

  • Make a list of your concerns/suspicions. Write down as many details about the adult and child as possible (for example address, date, time, location, employer, direction headed, description of car, licence plate number, etc.)

  • Call law enforcement

  • Call at 1-866-KID-TIPS to report a tip/sighting here allows for anonymous tips

If you are still concerned about anonymity, report your concerns to a lawyer who can make a report on your behalf and keep your identity confidential.

  • Do not confront the abducting parent about your suspicions. Allow law enforcement to handle the case appropriately.

1 Adapted from The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, The Crime of Family Abduction: A Child’s and Parent’s Perspective (Washington, Perspective U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, May 2010),which can be found online at

Are you sure you want to cancel your intake? Information you have entered up to this point will not be saved.