What We Do
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.
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.