Missing children’s posters are distributed in conjunction with law enforcement agencies to maximize the exposure while minimizing the risk to the missing child.
Since many missing children are recovered as a result of someone recognizing their photo, the “missing” poster listing physical characteristics becomes a vital component in the search for a child. Therefore, an up-to-date, good-quality photograph, along with descriptive information is one of the most important tools for law enforcement to use in the recovery of a missing child. However, AMECO members are aware that there are a number of fictitious missing children posters circulating on the Internet and for this reason every effort should be made to protect the integrity both of the image and of the child.
In order to assist in the search and location of missing children, many AMECO organizations develop their own posters and others create posters in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and other search partners. If you are considering creating your own “missing” poster, we recommend that you consider the following criteria:
- Before creating your “missing” child poster, contact your local law enforcement agency and ensure that your case is registered with them.
- Communicate to your local law enforcement agency that you are going to create a poster to help find the missing child; they may have additional and important suggestions for you as you create the poster.
- The photograph of the missing child should be a current, clear head shot that depicts the child accurately.
- Include the child’s full name and any other nicknames or aliases.
- Include physical information such as date of birth, age, height, weight, hair color, eye color, gender, race and any special marks such as tattoos, scars or birthmarks.
- Include any other distinguishing characteristics such as glasses, braces or jewelry.
- Be sure to include a tip line phone number and website. Be specific and list the law enforcement agency’s name and direct number (not 911) and the assisting missing children nonprofit organization, if applicable.
- For your family’s safety, do not include your personal phone numbers or other contact information!
- Depending on the advice of your local law enforcement agency or nonprofit agency, you may include an identification number (case number).
- It is also important to include any “last seen” information, such as the date, location, time and description of clothing the child was wearing.
- You can make a poster following these guidelines on-line at www.myflyer.org. After creating a poster you can download a PDF file of the poster for printing and distribution.
In addition, AMECO members recommend the following:
- If you are considering offering a reward for the safe return of the missing child, contact your local law enforcement agency and seek legal counsel before you move forward with the concept of a reward. See also the suggestions at Reward Fund Management.
- If abductor information is known, add this to the poster, but be sure to clear this information with the law enforcement agency first. Typically this information is added only at the discretion of law enforcement within legal guidelines. Another person's name or picture cannot be included on a poster unless there is a warrant for arrest of said person. If the poster is for a juvenile, permission from a parent or legal guardian must be obtained. Posters can include information about persons with whom the child may be travelling.
- Include any medical information or other personal information on the advice of law enforcement or your legal counsel.
- Keep in mind that anything you post online may exist there forever and that any email sent can be forwarded even after a child is recovered. Give some thought to what information you give out and to whom. You may want to create a website for the missing child information and then distribute the link so that the information can be updated, as needed.
AMECO members suggest the following poster distribution methods:
- Electronic/email - Know who is on your distribution list and make a concerted effort to protect the integrity of the image of the missing child.
- Hard copies for local/regional distribution. Always ask for permission to place the flyer in a location.
- Check with your local law enforcement agency regarding distribution of the poster to Customs, Immigration, airports, train stations, and other ports of entry.
- Request distribution through AMECO member organizations. To locate organizations that create and/or distribute posters, click here.
- Distribute through Missing Children Clearinghouses. For information about Missing Children Clearinghouses, click here.
- See Flyer Distribution for more suggestions about where to distribute posters.
- Be sure to remove posters when the child has been recovered. Request that any organization that has the poster displayed remove it as well.
AMECO thanks its members and law enforcement agencies for their expert contribution to this recommendation.
The Association of Missing and Exploited Children's Organizations (AMECO) is an international association of nonprofit organizations that provides services to families with missing and exploited children and law enforcement agencies. AMECO nurtures credible, ethical and effective nonprofit organizations that serve missing and exploited children and their families, and provides a unified voice on issues related to missing and exploited children and their families.
The development of this publication was supported by Grant No. 2008-MC-CX-K014 and 2009-MC-CX-K035 awarded to AMECO by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.