At what point do we know a child is missing?

THE decision to issue a missing child alert to the media is not one made lightly.

Several steps are taken by care givers and Child Safety officers immediately after the alert is noted.

According to the State Government's Protocol for Joint Agency Response to missing children, a caregiver and the child's care officer must take "immediate steps" to locate them.

It is often triggered by a call from the school if the child fails to turn up in the morning.

A report can be made to police at any point where a form is completed and a file number generated on the police QPRIME system.

That follows the case from the first report to the child being located.

A risk assessment is done to determine if an amber alert is to be issued - a statewide initiative which indicates the child is in immediate danger.

It is then broadcast to media at regular intervals.

But when the child is not considered in immediate danger, other courses are available to locate the child.

"In some circumstances, children absent themselves from where they should be for a short period and then return," the policy reads.

"They may be testing boundaries, or have become side-tracked on their way home.

"In most instances the child's whereabouts are known or can be readily confirmed.

"It is important the child's direct carer initiates action that a reasonable parent would take, to quickly establish the child's location and their safe return."

The decision to issue a media alert is made by police in close consultation with the Department of Child Safety which "will lead the development of a media strategy".

A child's identifying information is removed when located.

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