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The First Three Hours

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2017
2 pages

This fact sheet for parents/guardians and youth workers explains why their responsive actions within the first 3 hours of a child's going missing is so important to the recovery of the child, and it outlines what they should do within those first 3 hours.


Recent statistics indicate that preplanning and initial response within the first 3 hours after a child goes missing are crucial for ensuring successful recovery of the child. Such a response is even more urgent on Tribal reservations, since Tribal and state jurisdiction can change quickly. For parents/guardians, this means that when they know or suspect their child is missing, they should call 911. Parents/guardians should not initiate a search themselves prior to calling 911. Law enforcement professionals are trained and equipped to respond quickly and efficiently in such cases. In assisting the investigation, parents/guardians should spend most of the time providing as much information as possible on the child to investigators. Preparatory actions by parents can facilitate a quick response by law enforcement personnel. This should include practice in observing and questioning your child each day in determining what he/she is wearing, any non-routine activities planned, and who will be supervising or interacting with the child outside the home. Parents should also create a child ID-kit. Suggestions are offered for what to include in the kit. Other suggestions for parents are to have a list of local community resources and contacts; store updated information on a child's medical, dental, and distinctive physical characteristics on a flash drive or folder for quick access; and provide all persons who supervise the child outside the home with a list of persons approved to pick up the child.

Date Published: October 1, 2017