Kids Safety 101
teddy bear lies on floor

What is the Difference Between an Amber Alert and a Missing Child Alert?

An AMBER Alert and Missing Child Alert both require different criteria in order to be issued.

The alert system was created in 1996 after tragedy struck the town of Arlington, Texas. Amber Hagerman was a nine-year-old girl that was kidnapped while riding her bike with her younger brother in Arlington. Her body was found five days later.

Although each state has its own set of criteria in order to issue a missing child alert, many states have adopted similar rules which differ slightly from criteria that must be met in order for an amber alert to be issued.

Missing Child Alert

A missing child alert is only issued for missing persons that are under the age of 18 years old. In most states, it is only used when law enforcement agencies believe that the child’s life could be in danger after the preliminary investigation.

In addition, many states will only issue an alert if a photo of the child and descriptive information is available that can be used in the alert.

In some cases, missing child alerts then expand to an AMBER Alert being issued. This only happens if law enforcement determines the child may have been abducted rather than just missing.

Amber Alert Criteria

In the event of an AMBER Alert, there must be a clear indication that an abduction has occurred. AMBER Alerts are also only issued for persons under the age of 18.

In addition to a suspected abduction, law enforcement must also believe the child’s life is in danger and the activation of the alert has to be recommended by the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in the case.

In both an AMBER Alert and a Missing Child Alert there is one common purpose – to get information out to the public for help. In either case, a child is missing and their whereabouts are unknown.

As a citizen, it is important to help the families of missing children, as well as law enforcement, bring the child home safe by keeping your eyes and ears open.

If you become aware of any alerts, read or listen to the information carefully. Keep your eyes open and call authorities if you suspect you have information related to the missing child.

In addition, if you come across a lost child, do not leave them alone and call for help.

Grace Wells

Grace Wells grew up in the kind of town where no one locked their doors and parents felt safe letting their kids wander. Things have changed a lot since then. As a mother today, Grace has to worry about so much more than skinned knees and hurt feelings.

Grace believes the best way to keep kids safe is to stay informed. She hopes that her work at Kids Safety 101 makes a difference in children’s lives so that they can grow up as carefree as she did.

Please enable notifications so that you never miss an important update from Kids Safety 101.