If you believe your child has run away and have concerns that they may be at imminent risk, you should immediately report your child missing to police.
There are a number of important factors to consider when trying to locate your child:
- Does it appear that your child’s running away was spontaneous or planned?
- Has there been any recent contact or communication with anyone?
- What are the risk factors? For example, is your child in an exploitative relationship, using drugs/alcohol or experiencing any mental health issues?
- Does your child have access to resources (e.g., money, food, shelter) and individuals who might help them? Or, is your child completely without resources and isolated?
Attempt to locate your child
- Determine the best way to reach out to your child (e.g., text messages, friends, social media) and continue to reach out through supportive, positive messages, even if your child doesn’t respond
- Contact friends and family to see if they have heard from or seen your child or if your child is with them
- Check places your child may have gone (e.g., places where they frequently hang out)
- Check your child’s social media to see if they have been active recently
- Use apps like “find iPhone,” “find friends” or a similar application if previously enabled
Call your local police to file a missing person report
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.
When speaking with the police, be prepared to provide:
- A physical description and recent photo of your child
- Information about your child (e.g., behaviour, mental health (including any history of suicide attempts, talks about suicide or history of depression or other mental illness), relationships with family and friends)
- Information about any medical condition that your child has that requires attention
- Information about who they may be with (i.e., names, phone numbers) or where they may be (e.g., places where they frequently hang out)
- Information about any recent problems or significant life events
MissingKids.ca 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, child welfare)
- 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
Engage the public in your search
Engaging the public in the search for your child (through traditional methods and social media tools) can also be very useful. It is best to consult with police before engaging the public in any way.
It is very important to take steps that limit overexposure of your child. Remember that your child has a right to privacy and, ultimately, you need to decide if the possible benefits of public engagement outweigh overexposure and potential risks to your child. Contact MissingKids.ca for more information on how to effectively engage the public in your search.
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.