What is Child Alert?

Child Alert is a messaging system to notify citizens that a child has disappeared and finds itself in a life-threatening situation. It allows to call on witnesses who may have any information to come forward so that the child may be found back quickly.

The decision to launch a Child Alert will only be made by the magistrate (the public prosecutor or the examining magistrate) in charge of the disappearance case.

Every citizen and organization wishing to participate can register on the Child Alert website.

The Child Alert communication-platform is managed by Child Focus, in collaboration with the Belgian Federal Police and the judicial authorities.
•The Child Alert objectives
•When is a Child Alert launched?
•Child alert is not the only search method used
•How quickly will a Child Alert be launched and how long does it remain active?

The Child Alert objectives

•Enhancing children’s protection

•Allowing investigators in charge of a particularly worrying disappearance case to launch a call for witnesses very quickly through a whole range of communication tools, among which road signs, radio and television stations, mobile telephone providers, Internet, electronic billboards, company networks.

•Alerting citizens quickly (at work, on the road, at home…) and asking them to remain on the lookout and encouraging witnesses to provide information.

•Gathering any clues citizens may have within hours of the disappearance, any piece of information that may lead to the child being found. Thanks to the Child Alert message, any person who may have information that may lead to the child being located or who who sees the child - or the vehicle involved in the disappearance -can immediately dial 116000 or 0800 30 300. Child Alert is an appeal to citizen solidarity.

•Enhancing the compatibility between the existing child alert systems within the European Union Member States with a view to resolving cross-border child abduction cases more efficiently and strengthening international collaboration.

•Of course, citizens should on no account be asked to intervene themselves.

When is a Child Alert launched?

The criteria to launch a Child Alert must be extremely well defined: this is an alert plan which mobilizes exceptional tools for exceptional situations

The criteria have been defined in the ministerial directive concerning the tracing of missing persons.

Among the six criteria which define the various degrees of concern in disappearance cases, the 4th criterion (concerning situations that may indicate that the missing person may be in a life-threatening situation) is of prime importance.

Before a Child Alert can be launched, certain elements in the disappearance case must indicate that the child’s life is at immediate risk. But even when all the criteria are met, it does not automatically lead to a Child Alert being activated. The decision to launch a Child Alert must only be made by the magistrate in charge of the file. He will reach his decision following consultation with the investigators and the Missing Persons Unit of the Federal Police.

On the other hand, in some cases which do meet all the criteria, a Child Alert will not be launched if the broadcasting of the message may endanger the child even further or if it may compromise the ongoing investigation.

Child Alert is not the only search method used.

The Child Alert system is first and foremost a continuation of all the measures that have already been implemented to search for missing children.It is not a substitute for any of the existing tools but it is a tool that can be deployed in cases of extreme urgence, i.e., in situations where it can be reasonably assumed that the missing minor’s life is in immediate danger.

In other words, it is not because no Child Alert has been launched that nothing is done to find the missing child. In these situations, other tried and tested investigative methods are deployed. The Child Alert tool therefore complements the search methods used to find missing persons (e.g. poster/vignette campaigns; calls for witnesses/TV flashes, the Schengen information system, international circulation of information via Interpol…).

How quickly will a Child Alert be launched and how long does it remain active?

Child Alerts are launched as quickly as possible, and always on the basis of a well-considered decision and when the necessary information is available (accurate and recent photograph, a description of the missing child, etc.)

A Child Alert normally remains active for a period of 6 hours, and may be renewed up to 3 times. In other words, any Child Alert can remain active for up to 24 hours.

At the end of every Child Alert, a message announcing the end of the alert will be distributed.