The longer a child is missing, the more critical the ongoing involvement of the community becomes. At the beginning of most missing child cases, the interest and involvement of the police, the media and the community is high. As time passes, this interest may fade. When a searching family sees that police activity on their child’s case is slowing down and media coverage is beginning to diminish, their crisis can be amplified. However, when a child remains missing, the police file is never closed. The police will continue to follow up on any new information and/or tips they receive. The community can also continue to play an important role in the search for the missing child by committing to keeping the child’s story in the public eye, which may in turn bring forward new information and tips.
A Community Response Plan that is ongoing can help ensure the searching family does not feel abandoned and help the searching family understand that they are not alone. Searching families often fear that if they step away at all, even if it’s just some of the time, the search will cease. When the community continues to stay engaged in the search effort for a missing child, it may help to provide some comfort to the searching family and allow them to move forward. Even if the community’s involvement is only once and a while, it can still have impact. Keeping an ongoing Community Response Plan may help provide balance for the searching family and help them to manage their fears about the search ending.
Where there may have been limitations to community involvement in areas such as search operations, raising public awareness etc., at the beginning of a missing child case, these restrictions may lessen over time. The community can always take the opportunity to become engaged and become advocates for the child, the searching family, and the ongoing search.