Since I work at a major tourist destination on San Francisco’s waterfront, we fairly often get calls for missing children. For the most part these are younger children who got separated from their parents in crowds.
There are many people about, many distractions both visual and aural which contribute to quickly disorienting both child and parent. In the vast majority of cases, we reunite them within minutes (7 to 9 on average). My intent here is to point out a couple of things which can help first responders greatly: with digital media readily available, whether you use a camera or have one on your cell phone, take a picture of your child (or children) before venturing in crowded venues. From head to toe.
Secondly, if you have to provide a description of what the child is wearing (mothers are much better at this than dads), describing footwear is paramount. In the (hopefully) unlikely event that the child was grabbed either by an estranged parent or a predator, we will focus on what shoes children are wearing as we scan crowds: if the abductor planned to switch the child’s clothing, due largely to time constraints, he/she will not remove the shoes.
Shoes and hair color. When minutes count, this is the bare minimum.