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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 FindJaneDoe@gmail.com 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, FindYourMissingChild.org, 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 info@findyourmissingchild.org.

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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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