Unknown and Young Adult Cases:Immediate Steps
If you cannot locate your child and it is out of character for them to not be in touch with you or anyone else, you should immediately report your child missing to the police.
Attempt to locate your child
Depending on the circumstances, you may want to do some basic checks before calling the police.
- Call and send text messages to your child’s cell phone. Note whether the phone continues to ring or appears to be turned off.
- Check your child’s social media to see if they have been active recently.
- Call your child’s friends/contacts to determine who was the last person to have seen your child and when. If you are not able to access your child’s social media, ask their friends to check your child’s social media pages for activity.
- Check places your child may have gone (e.g., places they frequently hang out).
- Check all hospitals to see if your child has been admitted to hospital. Please note, however, that this information may not be released to you for privacy reasons if your child is an adult.
There are a number of important factors to consider when trying to locate your child:
- Is it possible that your child has voluntarily left home, moved away, or chosen to no longer have contact with their family?
- Is it possible that your child met someone online and is now with them?
- Are there any friends or others in your child’s life that you are suspicious of or who may somehow be involved?
- What activities is your child involved in?
- Is your child being bullied or having problems with any people in their community?
Call your local police agency 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 police, be prepared to provide as much of the following information as you are able to:
- A physical description and a recent photo of your child (electronic or hardcopy).
- Information about where and when your child was last seen. Let them know if your child was unfamiliar with the area and/or last seen near a body of water, mountains, or other rugged terrain where they could have become lost or injured.
- Information about your child that may include a description of their behaviour (including high-risk behaviour such as drug use, gang involvement, etc.), mental health, physical or intellectual disabilities, and relationships with family and friends.
- Information about any medical condition(s) your child has that requires attention.
- A list of names, addresses, and phone numbers of your child’s friends, family members, and anyone else you think may have information about your child’s disappearance. Let law enforcement know whether you have checked with these individuals prior to reporting your child missing.
- Information about any recent problems or significant life events.
- Any other information that may help the police. For example, tell them about any threats made against your child, relationship problems, bullying incidents, etc.
- Information about whether you suspect harm has come to your child.
MissingKids.ca caseworkers are here to provide support and assistance in the search of 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).
- 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 services.
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. If the police are actively involved in the search for your child, it is best to consult with them before engaging the public in any way.
It is very important to take steps that limit the 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 the potential risks and overexposure 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.