Holiday time should be fun-filled and happy, but those of us with children can also find it stressful. We worry about our kids wandering off, getting lost or even abducted like British girl Madeleine McCann whose parents are still searching for her years after going missing in Portugal.
Closer to home, there are always newspaper reports on children accidently separating from their parents while on holiday somewhere along our coastline. We’ve also heard stories about children getting lost playing hide and seek in shopping centres.
Tips to prevent children from getting lost
Here are some sensible tips on how to avoid children getting lost in the first place:
- Make sure they have some sort of ID on them, particularly if they’re too young to tell someone who they are. Your surname and cell phone number can be pinned to the back of a very young child’s clothing or put into the pocket or shoe of an older child. If they get lost, an adult can easily contact you.
- When you arrive at a new venue, find a meeting place and make sure everyone knows that this is where they should go to wait for you if you get separated.
- Talk to your child about what to do if they get lost, such as show another mommy their ID tag and ask them to call you. Mothers are less likely to endanger your child, more likely to help them and more easily identified as safe by your child.
- Dress them in bright clothing so they’re easily spotted in a crowd if you lose sight of them.
- Have a vocal call sign that you can use if they get lost one family I know uses “cooeee” in a high pitched tone of voice that carries through crowds when they need to find each other.
- Keep recent pictures of your children on you so that you can share these with the police if your child gets lost.
What to do if your child is lost
LeadSA has some excellent advice in the case of lost children. We’ve repeated it here for you, but you can also visit their website for more advice.
1. DO NOT WAIT 24 hours! This is a dangerous myth.
2. Complete a SAPS 55 form at your nearest police station.
3. Contact Missing Children South Africa (MCSA) on 072 647 7464.
4. Send the following information to MCSA:
- Name of the missing child
- Situation surrounding the missing child
- Case number
- SAPS details (including the name of the officer that assisted you)
- Most recent photo of the missing child
5. Keep MCSA updated on progress. MCSA will distribute case-related information to the province and even nationally, if necessary. MCSA will keep both the family of the missing child and the SAPS up to date on any relevant information and leads.
Useful phone numbers if your child goes missing:
- Police: 10111
- Cellphone Help: 112
- SAPS Crimestop: 08600 10111
- Childline: 08000 55 555
Contributor: Lindy Barry