What if it's not a game?

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

The popular game of Hide and Seek has caused parents a skipped heart beat as they search for their children, who have found the perfect hiding place.

But, what if it’s not a game? What if your child really is missing?

Marcia Davis, Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Ripley County Prosecutor’s Office, knows the scenario is real and wants parents to be ready should they have to experience it.

“We have brochures available in our office (prosecutor’s office third floor of the courthouse in Versailles), “ she told the Osgood Journal. The brochures contain a wealth of information along with a card that has a place for a color photo that is to be updated every six months, the child’s fingerprints and pertinent information should a child go missing. The brochures are also available at the Ripley County Sheriff’s Office and will be available at the upcoming Versailles Pumpkin Show, September 23 through 26. “This information is so important,” Davis stated.

While it’s not the most pleasant topic of conversation, it’s one that cannot be ignored. Living in a rural area such as Ripley County sometimes lulls people into thinking crime isn’t a big deal. “That’s where they are wrong,” Davis noted. No one is exempt from the criminal element, no matter where they live.

What do you do if you believe that your child is missing?

Information from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children gives some important information to parents.

Immediately call your local law-enforcement agency. Your first action as a parent is critical to finding your child. When you call police you need to provide your child’s name, date of birth, height, weight, and any other unique identifiers such as glasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed your child was missing and what they were wearing. This is where the information card will help. Sometimes it’s hard to think when you’re upset.

After calling the police, then begin searching through closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside large appliances and vehicles, including trunks, and any other small place a child might like to hide or crawl.

You should also request that your child’s name and identifying information be immediately entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File.

After your have called local authorities you should report your missing child to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children on this toll-free number: 1-800-843-5678.

Every year in America an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing. That’s more than 2,000 children each day. Of that number 58,000 are abducted by non-family members.

Another amazing statistic is that more than half of children who would have been abducted have escaped by yelling, kicking, pulling away, running, or attracting attention. Children need some basic safety guidelines that could save their lives.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children give some tips on keeping kids safe:
• Teach your children their full names, address, and home telephone number.
• Make sure children know how to reach you at work or on your cell phone.
• Teach your children how and when to use 911.
• Instruct children to keep the door locked and not to open the door to talk to anyone when they are home alone.
• Choose babysitters with care. Get references. Drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing.
• Learn about the Internet. Visit www.NetSmartz.org for more information about Internet safety.
• Caution children to never accept a ride from anyone unless you have told them it’s okay.
• Practice “what if” situations.
• Teach your children that if anyone tried to grab them they should make a scene, and make every effort to get away by any means: kicking, screaming, resisting.

For more information on how to take 25 minutes to talk with your child about safety and abduction prevention you can go online to: www.Take25.org.

“A missing child is a parent’s worst nightmare,” stated Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel as he urges Ripley County citizens to commit to making child safety a priority.

Davis invites parents to stop in the prosecutor’s office or pick up a brochure at the upcoming Pumpkin Show and be prepared for “hopefully something that will never happen.”