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Lost Child:Immediate Steps

When a child wanders off or gets lost, a parent my feel an overwhelming sense of panic and fear. It is extremely important, however, to remain calm and take immediate action.

Attempt to locate your child

  • Listen carefully for your child calling out for you.
  • Stop and call out your child’s name. If this doesn’t help locate them, and you agreed on a meeting spot with your child when you arrived, head there to see if they are waiting for you. If you are with others, someone should stay at your meeting spot in case your child shows up while you continue searching.
  • Continue to call out your child’s name and listen carefully for a response.
  • Look around to see if something may have caught your child’s attention.
  • Ask for help from staff, security guards, other parents, police, etc. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help — get as much help as possible.
  • Have others secure exits and entrances to the building or outdoor area, and check washrooms and hiding places.
  • Focus your attention on searching around the immediate area and potential areas that may have caught your child’s attention.

Many stores and public events have policies and procedures in place to respond to a lost child emergency. Notify staff or event organizers as soon as possible. If you have a picture of your child, show it to staff and security.

Call your local police if your child is not located immediately

In Canada, you do not have to wait to report your child missing — there is no minimum period of time required before reporting to police.

If your child is not located after an initial search of the area, you should call your local police.

When speaking with the police be prepared to provide:

  • A physical description and recent photo of your child (electronic or hardcopy).
  • Information about any medical condition your child has that requires attention.
  • How long your child was separated from you before you realized they were missing.

It is absolutely critical that you are honest with police. Being aware of the circumstances surrounding your child’s disappearance and having a clear picture of the timing and sequence of events helps police to effectively respond and work towards locating your child.

Contact Helpline

1-866-KID-TIPS (543-8477)
Contact us

Complete our online intake form caseworkers are here to provide support and assistance in the search for your child. We can help by:

  • Offering emotional support and helping manage the unknowns of searching for your missing child.
  • Liaising with other agencies involved with your child/family and the search (e.g., police, volunteers).
  • Providing information and guidance on using traditional media, social media, and other methods to raise awareness about your missing child.
  • Using our MissingKidsALERT public notification system in cases where public notification and assistance has been deemed valuable.
  • Connecting your family to appropriate support resources.

The information provided above is intended for information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Readers should assess all information in light of their own circumstances, the age and maturity level of the child they wish to protect, and any other relevant factors.