Nothing is more terrifying than a missing child.  As many know, the first three hours after abduction, or when a child goes missing, are the most crucial.  More often than not, after seventy-two hours, the likelihood of law enforcement finding missing children drops drastically.

Since 1999, approximately 800,000 children under the age of 18 were reported missing.  Family members abducted more than 200,00 of those taken, and non-family members took more than 58,000 kids.  At the end of 2012, the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) found that children accounted for 32,225 of active missing person records.  In 2001, the federal government listed 840,279 missing person cases, and all but 50,000 of those were under the age of 18.  These numbers indicate there are more abductions and kidnappings every year than law enforcement can keep up with and investigate on their own.

Private Investigator Services have access to resources not available to the public, and have been trained, specifically, to carry out their own determined investigations into locating missing children and returning them to their families. A Private Investigator uses a number of investigation techniques to locate a missing child, such as; Surveillance, background checks, networking with other Investigators, physical searches and more.

The irregular hours, including nights and weekends can be exhausting and at the same time be risky. When a mission is accomplished it is indeed rewarding to know that you can bring a loved one back to their family.


From the outset the P.I. can estimate from information received and experience of previous cases, what type of investigation this is likely to be.

The P.I. needs a detailed briefing with a parent or family member, who obviously knows the child well. Not just their visual appearance but details about the personality of the child, can be useful when later cross referencing received information. It starts with a photo or two preferably recent and continues on through to seeking some realistic ideas concerning the history of the missing child’s family dynamics.

Some questions the P.I. asks may seem personal or irrelevant, particularly to a stressed parent who is worried sick about the whereabouts and well being of their loved one. However without this detailed background

picture, the P.I. will not be able to build up an accurate assessment of the best investigative plan, most likely to return your child.

The professional investigator will need to explore any conflicting information received from different family members. Such can often point an inquiry down a new avenue which brings speedy results. As an investigation develops, the size, nature and scope of enquiries can change

as new information is received. So that the P.I. can change and adapt the investigative plan accordingly.

Because of the dark back history of missing child cases, which failed in the past, due to poor interface with the public and across the range of relevant agencies; there are now automatic high profile strategies that come into play when a child goes missing.

1.    Amber Alert : <Abducted children system using media.

2.    Code Adam :  <Abducted and missing children in malls, stores

and public buildings.


As a general rule, missing children cases fall into one of three categories:

1. Family Abduction.

2.    Runaways.

3.    Lost Children.


In these cases a family member has taken and hidden a child.

This can be a spur of the moment thing that was not planned.

In some cases even turning out to be nothing more than an inconsiderate parent or family member, who is simply prevented by circumstances from communicating what they have done, or bringing the child home.

When there has been willful intent to abduct the child this usually involves parents separation or divorce. The absent parent may flee to another state and sometimes these can turn into quite complex cases.


The investigator will need to ask obvious questions and keep as a subtext, an underlying investigation of the child’s motives. A child can runaway because of a home based situation they have witnessed, or simply because they are seeking attention and wish to create drama. So the investigator needs to keep an open mind, whilst being ready to accept and act on data which supports either one of these views. Teenagers frequently become runaways because they are rebelling against parental discipline and may even imagine that they are starting a new life on their own. The age of the child and other clues about the family situation, can usually give the investigator a ‘heads up’ about which type of runaway the child is.

Runaways are by far the most common missing child cases and are often resolved more quickly, if the child has not travelled a great distance from their home.


This category includes children who wander off becoming detached from their parents, friends or familiar locations. Such cases require a quick ‘blanket response’ by the police, using multiple officers and patrol cars looking in the last seen or possible nearby locale. In such situations large crowds may be involved and therefore use of public information displays and systems may bring early positive results. Runaway children are obviously in great danger if they are very young or immature. They have to be found quickly, before they might fall prey to some kind of predatory adult.

‘Special Needs’ children are more likely to become accidentally detached from a guardian or parent, because they tend to follow things of interest more impulsively, without considering possible consequences.



The rarest and perhaps saddest case type of all is children who disappear for months or years, without a trace of their whereabouts being known.

The reason these cases capture the public imagination most often is clearly because this is every loving parent’s worst nightmare. A situation seemingly without hope of resolution, simply because there is not enough information  to work with. High profile cases like Madeline McCann (UK Child) have attracted international attention and widespread speculation, but nothing has so far solved this particular case.

There are however equally rare shining examples of such long term cases being broken, with the child returning home after many years.

Missing U.S. child Sabrina Allen was found after 12 years in Mexico, where she had been taken as a child, having been abducted by her non-custodial mother.

A Private Investigator (Philip Klein) had been instrumental in tracking the whereabouts of the child. This situation and others like it demonstrate just how the Private Investigator can be the best of the best and sometimes also the only option left, once the police have made it a cold case file.

The Police have huge ongoing case loads to deal with, which are managed and prioritized by their superior officers. A Private Investigator can however take on the case of a long term missing child and continue to search for as long as the parent wishes. Long after, even years beyond the time when a missing child becomes a cold case file.

On a similar note of hopeful optimism, it has to be remembered that somewhere, every day of the week, missing children of all case type scenarios, are being found by Private Investigators and returned to their parents.  Much closer to home, I can from one of my own experiences tell of a situation I became involved in.

As a Private Investigator I feel obligated to look on a daily basis, at what is going on within my service area; which includes missing children and any information pertaining to the possible abductor, such as sighting particular vehicles.

One day I contacted the parents of a 14 year old boy who went missing after school. As expected his parents had contacted the police immediately, when first realizing he was missing which is normal procedure.

“It should be remembered there is no minimum time required before you can officially report a missing child.”

So if your child has gone missing contact the police & your local authorities immediately. So I joined this investigation on a pro-bono basis; time is of the essence and when a child has gone missing the first three hours re the most critical when trying to locate a missing child.

I talked to the parents to learn more about their child and following up details, became involved in the ongoing investigation conducted by the police. I was by this time conducting my own parallel investigation to assist the police. Through the course of these enquiries, I discovered this 14 year old boy had issues with his parents and after talking to them, it became clear

that the child was most probably seeking attention from his parents.

I looked into the child’s family background in order to learn who he might run to first if he was upset. Immediately contacting all of his friends gained me vital clues concerning issues surrounding possible drug abuse.

After 6 hours of exhaustive searching I was able to locate the young missing teenager, hanging out at a mall with another 17 year old, a couple of hours away from his residence.

I contacted the local authorities and he was brought home safe.

Happy endings exist every day in the real world and the involvement of a Private Investigator in missing children cases can be pivotal to making it happen.