Missing Children Society of Canada

MCSC uses the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children’s (ICMEC) definition of a missing child as “any person under the age of 18 whose whereabouts are unknown.”

It’s important to understand the many reasons a child can go missing. ICMEC classifies missing children in these categories, which include but are not limited to:

  • Endangered runaway: a child who is away from home without the permission of his or her parent(s) or legal guardian(s). The child may have voluntarily left home for a variety of reasons.
  • Family abduction: the taking, retention, or concealment of a child or children by a parent, other family member, custodian, or his or her agent, in derogation of the custody rights, including visitation rights, of another parent or family member.
  • Non-family abduction: the coerced and unauthorized taking of a child by someone other than a family member
    Lost, injured, or otherwise missing: a child who has disappeared under unknown circumstances. Facts are insufficient to determine the cause of a child’s disappearance.
  • Abandoned or unaccompanied minor: a child who is not accompanied by an adult legally responsible for him or her, including those traveling alone without custodial permission, those separated by an emergency, those in a refugee situation, and those who have been abandoned or otherwise left without any adult care.

What happens when a child goes missing?

Every minute counts. It’s important that authorities, such as police, be contacted so efforts can be concentrated around the search for that child.

In many cases, alerts will be sent out to members of the public whose help is vital to finding the missing child.

Typically, there are two alert scenarios when a child goes missing: the AMBER Alert, which is used sparingly, or the Child Search Alert, which is initiated by the Missing Children Society of Canada upon being contacted by police.

AMBER Alerts

An AMBER Alert is a rapid emergency child alert system that is activated by police when a missing child under age 18 is believed to have been abducted and in imminent danger. AMBER alerts are sent through the National Public Alerting system to mobile phones and on broadcast media, through social media and on electronic highway signs.

Alerts include the name and a description of the abducted child, who he or she might be with and descriptions of any vehicle suspected of being used in the abduction.

AMBER Alerts are rarely issued, and criteria depends on the province, but they should be taken seriously by members of the public who play a critical role in the search.

Child Search Alert

Most cases of abducted or missing children do not fall under the AMBER Alert criteria, but police still need a connection with Canadian communities to get the word out. It’s at that time police notices are transmitted via the Missing Children Society of Canada’s networks to be shared and broadcast.

MCSC’s notices are a vital element of the organization’s mandate as a partner with police in the search for missing children.

“We believe that this program has the potential to improve traditional search and investigation methods and offer law enforcement resources which, given budget restraints, prove challenging for all agencies within the police community.”

– Superintendent Cliff O’Brien, Calgary Police Service

The Missing Children Society of Canada’s Child Search Alerts include people connected through social media, digital marketers, plus traditional and online media. The alerts are assembled to support police and allows them to share important information with the public. All information to the network comes directly from police.Family Support

No family should be left alone to deal with the trauma of a missing child.

MCSC helps families cope with the stress of a missing child, during the investigation as well as after reunification by helping them gain access to local agencies and resources established to help with the complex issues around missing children and child abduction.

“The difficult times that I went through while my daughter was abducted were highly emotional and it wasn’t easy to focus on the most important aspects of my daily life. The Missing Children Society of Canada’s family and peer support … has been great, helping me understand what is really happening with the left-behind parents, and how to cope with the pain.” – Reunited Parent and Former Program Participant

Investigation Services – (Search Support)

MCSC has an in-house team of former police investigators who work with federal and municipal police departments as well as international police in the search for missing children.

MCSC supports police in investigating stranger abductions, parental abductions, disappearances, and endangered youth cases.

If you contact us:

  • MCSC always works in conjunction with police and requires evidence, such as a case file, that the disappearance has been reported to police.
  • In the event of a parental abduction, it must have taken place within Canada, to Canada or from Canada. A current custody order must be in place stating that the searching parent has legal access/custody of the child.
  • MCSC provides families with ongoing support and advocacy, regardless of how long the investigation has gone unsolved.

Make a Donation

We rely on the generous support of donors like you. Without your financial contributions, our investigators wouldn’t be able to close one registered file every 2-3 days. Make a donation and help us to continue to provide our services to searching families.

Whether you want to make a one-time donation or join our monthly giving program, your support is essential to helping us reunite families. Every dollar makes a difference.

Join the Online Search Party

Donate your social feed and help locate a missing child by participating in the Most Valuable Network™.

Help Spread the Word

We release national, time-sensitive information about missing children to our Facebook and Twitter followers. Please follow us and share and retweet our posts to help spread the word.

Get Your Company Involved

CodeSearch™ is a rapid response program that engages corporate Canada in partnership with MCSC and law enforcement in the search for missing children. Learn more about the program and how your company can get involved.


We typically seek volunteers to help support our fundraising and community events. To learn more about these opportunities as they become available, please follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Other Ways To Get Involved

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Missing Children Society of Canada

Craig Peterson



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