CHENNAI: Often when a child goes missing or is recovered, most stakeholders are unaware what to do next. To widen the scope of the search, to enhance rehabilitation and to reiterate the role of all stakeholders, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to trace missing children.
Considering that there are several SOPs developed by States to trace missing children leading to confusion, the Supreme Court had directed the MWCD on January 13, 2015, to take help of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to compile a model SOP which may be used by all States/UTs to follow a uniform procedure throughout the country.
Observing that less than 5% of missing children are kidnapped and that around 95% run away from home, the District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) of Chennai, Siva Jayakumar said that the SOP concentrates not only on tracking but also on rehabilitation and recovery. “If we recover a child who has run away from the custody of a parent or guardian, we will now ensure that we analyse the reasons behind it. It’s not about returning the child safely, it’s about ensuring that the child does not get pushed to a situation that he or she will have to run away again,” he said.
The DCPO added that the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) will also consider the need for counselling for parents or the child, if the child hails from an abusive or disturbing background or if the child has a behavioural problem. “If the child runs away from an institution or a child protection and care unit, the institution will come under scrutiny and we will reconsider before the child is sent back,” he said adding that the parent, guardian or institution the child ran away from will be monitored for up to the next three months at least.
Following the SOP will ensure effective enforcement of law and create a mechanism and system to prevent further victimisation of missing children and guarantee that appropriate and timely protection, care and attention is provided to victims and witnesses.
However, the tracking of missing children is primarily a responsibility of the police. The investigating officer will have to utilise a checklist that provides a framework of actions, consideration and activities that may give him/her the best results. The SOP also defines roles and responsibilities of stakeholders such as the police, CWCs, Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) and it was formulated in agreement with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules 2016.
How to report a missing child?
In addition to all the regular means of filing a complaint, ie, in person, over the phone, over the e-mail, or other communications, a missing child’s complaint may be filed through SMS to the authorities. The police should record all such information on the General Diary (GD), conduct a preliminary verification of the caller and get the FIR registered.
Where to report a missing child?
- At the police station/ AHTU/SJPU*
- The PCR number, dial 100
- Any emergency helpline of the police
- Childline 1098
- After reporting to the police, the information of the missing child can be entered by any individual after logging onto www.trackthemissingchild.gov.in and photograph be uploaded in the citizens’ corner to assist all the stakeholders to track the missing child
*AHTU: Anti-Human Trafficking Unit; SJPU: Special Juvenile Police Unit
Source: Standard Operating Procedure for Cases of Missing Children by Ministry of Women
& Child Development