What are first steps you should take if your child disappears?

By Debbie Strauss - Special Projects Producer

HOUSTON - Rania Mankarious is the CEO of Crime Stoppers of Houston, and she is also a mother of three children.

She said taking quick action in the minutes and hours after discovering a child's disappearance is key to a successful outcome.

Here are her tips:

  1. Call law enforcement.
  2. Start gathering information like photos, the last thing they were wearing, height, weight, eye color, hair color and any marks on their body.
  3. Have a plan as to who's going to stay home in case the child returns.
  4. Call local media, neighborhood community groups and civic groups.

Human trafficking

Talking to your kids about the dangers of human trafficking is another reality for today's parents.

Slideshow: Missing children from Houston

There is a hazy line between a runaway child and a child that's been trafficked.

"Children can meet somebody online or befriend a new kid at school and choose to socially meet them or go visit them or go on a trip with them," Mankarious said. "We're calling it a runaway, but it's really a kid strategically lured away by a trafficker."

Traditional kidnappings

Statistically, a traditional kidnapping happens most often when a child is going to or from school.

Mankarious talks to her own children about the situations they may encounter.

 

"We talk about the fact that why would somebody do that, what strategy would they use? 'Hey, your mom needs you' or 'I’m looking for directions' or 'Do you need a ride?'" Mankarious said.

She suggests having honest and age-appropriate conversations with your children.

 

How to make your own child-safety kit

Make your own child-safety kit by collecting the following information about your child on a piece of paper:

  • First, middle and last name
  • Nicknames
  • Birth date
  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Sex
  • Ethnicity
  • Eye color
  • Hair color
  • Unique features (like glasses, birthmarks, braces, piercings, tattoos, etc.)
  • Doctor contact information
  • Emergency contacts
  • Fingerprints

You'll need to use a black inkpad and take a fingerprint of every single one of your child's fingers.

You should also include a recent, color photo of your child and a DNA sample -- anything from a toothbrush to a used bandage.

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