It's a fact that children go missing a lot. More often than not, it's due to a miscommunication of some sort. A child may have to stay later a school; they decide to visit a friend's house on a whim; or sports practice switched to being a different day. They may have forgotten to tell you, or you the parent may have forgotten if they already told you. You then discover where your child is, and everything is okay.
Whether it's a misunderstanding or a real case of foul play, it can be agreed that no parent wants to report their child as missing. It's a nightmare scenario that no one is eager to live through. But it's important to know how to report a missing child so that if it happens to you, you know exactly what to do.
Before you actually report your child missing, immediately look for them yourself. Every child has hiding places; check all of them. This can be a closet, inside a large appliance (i.e. washer or dryer), under a bed, and many more small hiding spots that your child could feasibly fit inside. Don't be afraid to have others help you if possible. Should your child go missing inside of a store, contact the store manager so they can implement Code ADAM (if it's done there).
If none of the above results in finding your child, call your local police department and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Don't hesitate for even a second to get the authorities involved time is of the essence when a child is missing. Be prepared to give the police a physical description of your child, as well as a recent photo of them. This will help in creating a missing person poster that can be distributed. Mention any distinct parts of their description (i.e. birthmarks, glasses, scars, tattoos, etc.) so that it's clear that the missing child is definitely your child.
If your child is older and has social media, try and see if any activity occurs while your child is missing. If you see any activity on their social media accounts and they're missing, alert the police immediately. This is especially true if the posts in question don't sound like they were created by your child. Letting the police know about your child's social media presence is also important because they can look into it and see what your child was doing there prior to going missing- as well as after the fact.
Also, do everything you can to get the media's spotlight on your child's disappearance. Social media is a great way to go viral, but don't rely solely on that. Go to your local newspaper, radio stations, TV news stations, and anywhere else that will allow you to share your child's disappearance.
Finally, if your child goes missing for a long period of time, you'll want to maintain a relationship with the primary investigator in charge of the case. Getting regular updates and ensuring that you and the police are on the same page is important. You should also maintain a relationship with the media so that they'll continue to air your child's disappearance. Hopefully, you and your family won't have to take it this far. But if it's necessary, doing so is key to keep interest in your child's disappearance alive.