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Monday, December 3, 2012

A Parents’ Guide To Finding A Runaway Child

Tony Loftis is interviewed about his missing daughter on WPIX, channel 11, in New York City. (Screenshot)

Last November, Christina Loftis came home and realized that her 13-year-old daughter, Allie Loftis, was not where she was supposed to be.

5 Social Media Tips For Parents Of A Runaway

  • Create a new email address such as for all communication about your child.
  • Create a “Find Jane Doe” Facebook page with recent photos, police phone number.
  • Send an email to friends informing them you need their help. Include a link to the Facebook page.
  • Assume your child has Internet access. Speak directly to him/her in some posts. Post photos that bring back positive memories.
  • Answer all questions posted, and respond positively to any negative attacks.

After the police searched the family’s suburban Massachusetts home, they found a note on the daughter’s whiteboard. It read: “Don’t look for me. I’m not lost, I’m found.”

Allie was missing for 12 days before she was found in Jersey City, N.J. with a 42-year-old man, Jorge Luis Garzon. Garzon was charged with kidnapping, child endangerment, and other offenses. He pleaded guilty and is currently serving a five-year sentence.

Authorities credit the success of the search to a social media campaign launched by Allie’s parents, Christina and Tony Loftis.

The campaign started with a Facebook page, reaching out to Allie with pleas to come home, and it grew into a social media storm. The Huffington Post wrote a story on Allie, which prompted several TV stations in New York – where a surveillance camera had spotted Allie – to pick up the story as well.

Soon, someone who had seen Allie in his neighborhood called in the tip to the WPIX-TV in New York, and Allie was recovered.

Allie’s parents are now deconstructing the way they used social media, in order to help other parents locate their missing children. Their website,, provides a guide to what parents can do when faced with the situation Christina and Tony Loftis faced last year.

Families who want a copy of the “Social Media Guide for Parents of Missing or Runaway Children” should send an email to


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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