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Would you know what to do if you lost your child in a public place?

post #1 of 170
Thread Starter 
Today at the Children's Museum I saw a mama quickly dissolve into sheer panic as she was looking for her lost little boy.

I was having lunch with DS near the entrance/exit when I first noticed her frantically running around, not knowing what to do or where to go, just hoping he wasn't outside in the cold rainy parkinglot.

I heard her tell another mama that she'd already looked inside for him and didn't know what to do next. She was just lost as to what to do, and I could see all the awful possibilites flashing before her. She simply described him as "wearing a blue T shirt with white hair" and then raced off again.

As I left, she was out in the rainy parking lot racing around frantically yelling his name. Staff were just beginning to understand the problem and walking outside with their walkie-talkies.

And a lot of things crossed my mind as I saw her unravelling and felt so terrified for her.

1) how could I have helped her?
2) what would I do in that situation?

Unable to get this off my mind I've been thinking about what should be done in such a situation.

Alerting the staff immediately seems like a good idea. I know it's probably not the first thing you'd think of as you're desperately looking for your child, but I think they'd be able to watch the doors for you and help track him down.

Also keeping a relatively recent picture of the child with you in your wallet or purse would be a good idea so she could drop that off with the staff while she looks for him some more.

But what else? These are haphazard ideas.

What do you put on your child so someone can ascertain their name? If he was a young toddler, he couldn't give his name.

What should have been the response of the children's museum? As I drove away I thought they should have someone checking the exiting cars to make sure nobody has an extra child. Again, that's a hard one. Kids don't carry ID.

So many questions and I apologize for the rambling post.

What's the right thing to do if you lose your child to make sure you get them back immediately and safely?


What's the right thing to do if you see it happening to someone else?
post #2 of 170
My MIL lost dh in a Target when he was around two. She looked down and he was gone. She yelled "missing child! Lock the doors!" and they immediately locked the building down. No one came in and no one came out till he was found. They found him under a blue jean display playing with a toy car.
post #3 of 170
if I couldn't find him really quick and didn't have anyone to help look, my next/first step would be to contact the staff of wherever I was. They SHOULD have a missing child protocal to follow and help make looking more effective.

a tip I remember is to carry more then 1 recent photo so that if you have to pass out a pic to people, they don't have to wait to only look at the one you have. Maybe take a photo a day on your cell phone (if you have one).

mark his name on some/one/all articles of clothing.
post #4 of 170
ds was lost in a library a while ago. He walked out of a room before and I expected him to head to the fish tank. He wasn't there so I quickly scanned the area then told every librarian I could find and every parent. I described his clothes and the way he looked.

It turned out that he got on the elevator and rode it down to the main floor. Luckily a nice woman found him and took him to the main desk. It could have been so, so much worse.
post #5 of 170
When we go public places like that I try and take a picture near something easy to measure of the boys before we go in. I also try and match our clothes that way I don't have to think hard about their clothes.

A friend of mine had a set of dogtags made for her boys and anytime they go somewhere the boys wear them.

I try teach to the boys that if 'mommy' gets lost to find another mommy with children. You can't always find a staff member/worker, but there are almost always moms around where I am.

I guess the first thing would be to lock down the place. The pp's mil yelling out is a good plan. Let people know your child is missing.

It is scary when you see someone else searching and all the what if's. I think it's great you started this thread so we can come up with ideas to share!
post #6 of 170
no new suggestions, but I'm glad you started this thread, it is good to think about this and plan ahead.

I was impressed too with the PPs MIL who shouted to shut the doors.

Kids can just disappear so quickly, it happened to me just yesterday in a shoe store...luckily it was small enough to find him quickly, but it got me thinking, too.

mom to simon, 8/30/06
post #7 of 170
I'd panic
post #8 of 170
I think my ideas have been covered, but I would mention not to label the child's clothes on the outside (like those cute jackets w/ their name on the back) b/c a potential predator can use that to gain a child's trust. Take a picture that day on your cell or digital camera so you know exactly what they are wearing. I second telling kids to find a mommy w/ kids or someone in uniform is generally good also. I like the matching clothes thing too. Maybe as you walk around the store, zoo, whatever, point out "landmarks"? Tell lost kids NEVER go to the parking lot/car to find you.
Whenever I hear a code adam (I don't know if that's a nationwide thing, but I think it is, it's the store code for missing child) I always stop what I'm doing and try to watch for the kid or if I'm by the door or a bathroom, I always watch there too. Losing my child is one of my worst fears, so I try to be VERY diligent, but things do happen, so it's good to have these ideas.
One more- teach your kids your "real name" b/c I've heard of kids even 3 and 4 that only know parents as mom and dad, so the parent can't be paged.
Oh, and another- you can have a little card w/ your name and cell number and put it in your kid's pocket so if they get lost you can have them hand the card to an employee or police officer or whoever is their "safe" person.
post #9 of 170
Good post... although just reading it gives me chills

My SIL writes her cell phone number on her kids hands' when they go to places like amusement parks. Not a foolproof plan but better than nothing? (they're 4,6,9)

It's a scary scenario to even imagine, I'm sure I would panic too.
post #10 of 170
Originally Posted by twogreencars View Post
I'd panic
Same here, makes my eyes water just thinking about it
post #11 of 170
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Karamom View Post
Same here, makes my eyes water just thinking about it
Me too, I still have chills from watching that mom come completely undone
post #12 of 170
I believe it is standard protocol to shut down entry/exit when a child is missing inside a store, so I would definitley go to a staffer if I wasn't too embroiled in a major freakout.

Yeah, I am freaked out now thinking about it. My ds is a runner. He took off from my mom one time in a store - luckily it was to one of those play trucks you put quarters in and it shakes the kid around. Whew.
post #13 of 170

Thanks for the reminder - I've been meaning to put laminated ID cards in the soles of DD's shoes.
post #14 of 170
DD disappeared on me about 2 months ago while shopping. It was probably the most terrifying moment of my life.

But, the absolute first thing I did when she didn't respond to me screaming her name is to head for the only exit door. No one was walking out with her and she wasn't getting out the door without me seeing her. She had on a shirt that was easy to describe and stood out. As I ran towards the front (no back exit in this store), the staff fanned out looking for her, and my best friend and her DD headed towards the back of the store. My best friend is the one that found her, at the back of the store looking completely bewildered at all the yelling and commotion. Seeing her, finding her ok, was probably the happiest moment ever.

I do not let her out of my sight for even a second anymore. She is NOT allowed to play in the clothes racks, run around to the other side of them, etc. If I have to concentrate on something, she goes in the shopping cart, stroller or has to hold my hand. DP taught her to say her full name, including last name, and she knows our full names as well. One good thing is, she is a screamer by nature, and would definitely fight anyone who tried to grab her. Hell, DP had to take her out of the room 2 weeks ago when I was in the hospital and she bit, kicked, punched, head butted and screamed at him for 20 minutes. And that is her own father!

We also keep explaining to her what a stranger is, and to not talk to strangers unless we say it is ok. She is naturally shy of strangers anyway, so she gets it already.

I hate that I have to teach an almost 3 year old these kinds of things, but there are so many creeps out there. I feel like I'm taking a bit of her childhood away almost, the innocence of playing a game in the store kind of thing, but I NEVER again want to feel like I did when I couldn't find her. I shook for hours, hugged, kissed and cried on her, and that freaked her out enough that she listens pretty well now when I tell her she is getting to far from me. Nothing like mommy having a mental breakdown to get through to the kid.

post #15 of 170
I lost my youngest son once. He was 9 mos. old. He learned to walk at 8.5 mos. and was a runner from day 1. My mom was with me that day, we were at a giant Gap store (baby Gap, Gap Kids, Gap, and Gap Body all in one) and the two of us started looking for him. She found him in a dressing room <2 minutes later but I was panicked. I still feel like a terrible mom, 16 mos. later, for losing a 9 mo. old, but he was standing RIGHT next to me, I only looked away to look at a price tag for a couple seconds and he was gone. So scary.

Now that both of my kids are big and verbal, I'd yell their name and if they didn't yell back, I'd find an employee and tell them my child was missing, show them a picture from my cell phone, and run around yelling their name. I don't mind looking like a crazy lady. Both my kids know their full names, mine and my partners' full names, and my 5 yr. old knows our address (the 2 yr. old knows we live in "Ann Arbor Michigan." Neither kid knows my cell phone number but come to think of it, I should put my phone number in their shoes or something. It's a 10 digit number (out of state) and I don't think either could remember it, especially if they were lost and freaking out.
post #16 of 170
I think it depends on the age of the kid. My 2 yo who is a runner I would freak. He would run into trouble, go with strangers and never think twice about our absence. My 4 YO not so much, he sticks pretty close, understands about strangers and knows what to do if he's in trouble.

Once at the children's museaum he thought he was lost (Dh was in the next display with YDS and was keeping an eye on him) all of a sudden "Would papa Patrick please come to the front desk" gets paged. DS panicked when he couldn't see DH and went straight to the desk and asked to have him paged.

I would circle the immidiate area once, then head for the exit and alert staff.
Calling their name the whole time. I would stay at the exit or make sure a staff did while others looked.

OTOH, my 4 yo is very clingy and can panick when he can't find you right away, this can cause him to make bad choices in safe situations. Every day when I put his brother down for a nap, I turn on a movie for him and if he feels nervous he just peeks int he bedroom door. Well last week he somehow forgot the routine we've had every day for the past 18 months, went downstairs to look for me and when he couldn't find me panicked. I came downstairs as he was letting himself out the back door to walk to my parents house! Now my parents only live 2 blocks away, and I'm pretty sure he would be fine, BUT you have to cross a busy street and the though of coming out and finding him gone scared the life out of me. I didn't want to freak as his instinct to find another adult he trusted was right (and he had put on his boots/jacket/mitts he had obviously thought this through). I showed him how to speed dial my parents, and told him if he ver felt scared he could call them.

They have been getting a lot of prank calls since then
post #17 of 170
The year before my now 13yo was born in England, there was a sad sad story of a 2.5 yo toddler whose mother lost eye contact with him for a second in a Liverpool, England shopping center. It didn't have a happy ending. Two ten year old boys led him out of the shopping center and brutally tortured him to death. This haunted me throughout DS's toddlerhood. It probably haunted most mums during the 1990's and beyond. I still remember the tiny tot's name...
post #18 of 170
Definitely alert an employee ASAP. Many stores (and kids museums, etc) have plans in place for when this happens. Any *good* kid-centered place, or even just a larger store, SHOULD have a procedure to follow that all employees are trained to do. Many of these places have adopted a specific plan called "Code Adam", which should be marked by a blue sticker at the entrance of the store, if they do. I don't know if this is just in the US, or if it is done in other areas as well.

The best thing that you can do is give a FULL description of your dc, which may be hard to remember to do when you're panicked. However, if the place does Code Adam, or if they are able to do an overhead page throughout the building, a thorough description will be key. I mean, even describe the shoes your dc is wearing. Specifically ask for the overhead page, if you have to. The employees should then immediately close off all the exits except for the "main" entrance/exit, and then you should go stand up there with an employee so you can see everyone that leaves. Then the remaining employees can look for your dc, going by your description.

That's the way Code Adam works, and if you're somewhere that doesn't have that plan in place, just tell them to do all that. And they damn well better, it just goes smoother when all the employees already know what to do. I've seen a number of Code Adams happen, and the child is always found within a few minutes. Everyone in the store hears the page describing the lost child, the employees all immediately stop what they're doing and man all the exits (including the emergency exits), and the manager/person in charge takes the parent up to the main doors. By then, someone has always found the kid, because every single person in the store knows that there's a child missing. It works really well.

It's too bad that not all places do Code Adam, HOWEVER, like I said, just tell the employee to do all this, if you have to. It goes so much quicker than frantically running around and being the only eyes to spot your child.

Edit--- Here's a good summary of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_Adam
Whenever you guys come across places that don't do Code Adam, or anything similar (especially places like children's museums, which should know better!), you can totally speak to management about implementing it. I'm willing to bet that most places would be very willing to listen to anyone with safety concerns about their establishment.
post #19 of 170
That happened to me with ds in Old Navy. DH was supposed to be watching ds so I could look on my own, which I did and when I caught up with dh he was looking at clothes. No ds in sight. I FLIPPED! I ask dh who gave the canned "He was right here" response and I went running through the store. A young guy asked if I was ok, then I realized he was an employee I told him I couldn't find my 2 yo light brown hair described clothes...all as I was running past (meanwhile dh is just standing at the door). Then the kid grabbed someone else who canvased the other side and he found me to say ds had been sitting at the base of a pants display...only his feet hanging out.

Dh got the hairy eyeball the rest of our trip.

Now, ds is Never out of my sight.
post #20 of 170
Yikes, I am crying my eyes out right now just from reading this, it is super scary. I would definitely be breaking down like a complete crazy person, hopefully would be coherent enough to keep things in motion and make sure they block the exits, someone scans the parking lot quickly, etc. I hear that this happens to every mama at some point- shudder.

My husband heard an Amber Alert on the radio once and just happened to see the vehicle they described- he called the police and kept following the vehicle and giving directions to dispatch until the police took over (he is a cop too but was off duty on his way in to work) and they let him help with the take-down and he got to take the little girl out of the car. Her pervert child-molester uncle had stolen her from the parents house or something and was near crossing state lines!
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