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Finding Missing Kids Online

April 05, 2001|MICHELLE MALTAIS | michelle.maltais@latimes.com

Nearly 360,000 children are kidnapped every year, according to a study by the U.S. Justice Department. If the unthinkable happens to you or someone you love, first get law enforcement involved and file a formal report. They'll take it from there. But the Web can help supplement the search.

The Department of Justice has a guide on its site written by professionals and parents who have had a child abducted. At http://www.usdoj.gov/01whatsnew/contents.html, you'll find firsthand insights into what parents should do and what they should expect, describing the steps that families and law enforcement agencies take in their efforts to find missing children. The State Department's Office of Children's Issues offers helpful details at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html.

Beyond what's offered by the government, a good place to start is the site for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, founded nearly 20 years ago by John Walsh. The site, at http://www.missingkids.com, offers help to parents, children, law enforcement, schools and the community in recovering missing children and information on how to help prevent child abduction, molestation and sexual exploitation. The site is available in Spanish too.

Lost Child (http://www.lostchild.net) lets you submit a missing-child form. Lost Child verifies the case with the local police department by phone, then broadcasts the photo and information to Web site banner display members all over the world. It also e-mails alert notices to volunteer recovery units.

Another free listing is available at http://www.cyberpages.com/missing.htm. Parents can fill out a form detailing the missing child's distinguishing features and add a picture (smaller than 40,960 bytes) to its list.

You also can check out http://www.interpol.int/Public/Children. Interpol provides information on the Web concerning children, possible abuses and what the International Police Organization can do to detect crimes and track down criminals. It includes a search for missing children.

Focus Adolescent Services http://www.focusas.com/Runaways.html provides resources to keep teens from running away and for finding them if they do, including a state directory of services and links to related sites such as the National Runaway Switchboard, which runs a message service to help parents and runaways communicate.

To find out about registered sex offenders and protect your child from potential harm, you can visit http://www.parentsformeganslaw.com. It links to national registries for sex offenders (California does not provide information online) and provides tips on keeping children safe.

The Polly Klaas Foundation (http://www.pollyklaas.org) lists missing children and provides useful information. There's also an online form to submit information about a missing child. The site says a representative will contact you after the submission is reviewed, usually within 24 hours.

In terms of pure prevention, http://www.safewithin.com includes resources and tips on how to keep children and senior citizens out of harm's way. The children's section covers topics from child abuse and abduction to safety seats. The senior section touches on crime concerns and health hazards.

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Michelle Maltais is a broadcast producer and copy editor at The Times.

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