What to do if your child runs away or is missing?

Saved In America Advisory Board Member and Parent Advocate Paul Foley, explains what every parent needs to know if a child is missing, runs away or has been trafficked.

(February 13, 2023) – On Feb 17, 2018, we received a call from the Foster Home that our daughter was living in Bakersfield CA, stating that Emmeline had climbed out of a window at 5AM that morning.  It was 25 degrees and she left without a T shirt, backpack, clothes, or the medicine that she needed.  This was not the first time Emme had run away.  In fact, it was the eighth time.  She was upset that they would not let her call me that evening and the way she was being treated.  Our experience with her running away told us that we would have to try to find her on our own.  When in the foster system, these children run away, and there is very little to no effort put in to finding them.  Of course, a police report was filed so that she would be put into the system to “Be On The Look Out” OR BOLO.  We pushed law enforcement for their help and quickly recognized that without us proving her life was in immediate danger, they would not help by getting warrants to search her intranet history, Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform that children normally use to communicate with friends, family, or other people she was talking to online that we didn’t know, (which included things like the dark web).  

We did all the things we could think of that would help locate our daughter.  We printed flyers and drove endless hours through the streets of the cities that we thought she might have gone to.   By chance I had a friend who lived in San Diego County who saw my daily posts and the desperation we were feeling about our missing daughter.  She contacted me and told me I should get a hold of Saved In America.  That day I contacted Joseph Travers of Saved In America.  Joseph listened to our story and immediately said he would do everything possible to help us find our child.  That same day Joseph put me in contact with one of the investigators who would be our lifeline to help us find our child. Little did I know at the time that not only would Saved In America be the key to finding Emme, but they would also walk us through the darkest days that a parent could ever have to face.  

Saved In America went to work right away.  They gave us guidance on a day-to-day basis of what we should be doing and sometimes on the things that would be of more harm to our search than help.   This was not an easy case by any means.  Emme had been in the system as a runaway many times before and this time when she left, she took no phone and completely went dark on the intranet for weeks.   Saved In America used all the tools that law enforcement either didn’t have or refused to use to help us find Emme. Along with Saved In America, we searched day and night for weeks to find Emme.  On week three, I received a call from Joseph saying he would like to get national attention on our search.  The NBC Nightly news was doing a story on their operation and asked if we would take our story nationally.  We agreed and our story was featured on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt within weeks. 

We were fortunate enough to locate Emme on March 28, 2018, which also happened to be my birthday- what a present.  Saved In America was not only the key to getting Emme home and into treatment, but the only thing that kept my family going.  Every day we knew that we were making a difference in our search, and that gave us some hope during that very trying period in our life.  

This was the first chapter in my relationship with Saved In America.  Our daughter ran away two more times, and we were able to bring her home twice within five days.  I truly believe that Saved In America saved our daughter’s life and gave us a second chance.

I now serve as a Parent Advocate for the Saved In America Advisory Board.  I remember the feeling of being alone during the time our daughter was missing and hope to give back what was so freely given to me.   We have been working on ways to help support parents of missing children and have created “a missing child parent checklist” that can help serve as a guide and best practices for parents.  I truly believe that bringing Emme home was a group effort, and that parents are lost and don’t know how they can work with the Saved In America Investigators to help bring their child home.  I also know the importance of having families going through this trying time to have someone to talk to day to day when they are feeling hopeless and lost.  That is my role as the Parent Advocate, to work with guardians and parents on what to do and serve as a sounding board with tips and next steps.  I hope this checklist will serve parents and guardians as a guideline of what to do in case a child is missing, runs away, or has been trafficked.  If you or someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking, please call the Human Trafficking Hotline at: (888) 373-3788 or text befree (233733).  You can also call the Saved In America TIP Hotline at: (760) 348-8808 or email info@savedinamerica.org.

About Saved In AmericaFounded in 2009 by Joseph A. Travers, Saved In America (SIA) is headquartered in San Diego, California with national alliances and reach.  At no charge to families, SIA volunteers (former Police Officers, Navy SEALs and Military Special Operators turned Licensed & Insured Private Investigators) assist parents and law enforcement in locating missing, runaway, and exploited children – the groups most vulnerable to sexual trafficking. For victims of sexual exploitation, SIA assists in procuring legal representation, safe housing, and rehabilitative therapy. SIA also aids high risk juvenile shelters to protect children from further exploitation by pimps and predators.  Since December 2014, SIA has assisted parents and law enforcement in the recovery of more than 270 children.  For more information, please visit https://www.savedinamerica.org/or join the community on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram . #ChildSavedNotSold

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