The degree to which the public may become involved will vary from case to case. Before commencing any sort of public awareness strategy, the Public Awareness Coordinator should carefully consider the impact of increased public awareness on the child and/or on an alleged abductor. While most often increased public awareness will be invaluable, there are times where it may cause a child and/or an alleged abductor to run farther and/or panic. Careful consideration should be given to how an alleged abductor or runaway child may respond to information that is released, and to the impact it may have on any ongoing criminal investigation. The Public Awareness Coordinator should coordinate any public awareness events with the lead investigator of the case and with the permission and input of the searching family.

When Public Awareness Can Hurt

In some cases, public engagement that occurs too soon can be detrimental. Placing posters all around the community and sending out press releases is not always the right thing to do. Consider the outcome of all actions. For example, there is a difference between a missing child and an absent child. A child or youth who has decided to leave home may also choose to cut off communication with his or her parents, but still remain in contact with their peers. The public sharing of their situation and/or struggles could embarrass them and, in fact, cause them to stay away longer in order to save face.