Every parent fears for their child’s safety and when a child is missing it can be a parent’s worst nightmare. At Juvenile Court we have discovered that almost daily a child somewhere in Cobb County runs away from home. At a time when parents feel such panic it is helpful to know there are specific steps that you must take. These steps will give the parent some bit of comfort because they are being proactive in an attempt to locate their child as soon as possible. These steps are also required by law.
Once you have discovered that your child is missing you should immediately notify the police department in the appropriate city or precinct area. The police can help you distinguish between a runaway and a child abduction case. The police will have you sign a juvenile complaint form and they will broadcast a lookout for the child.
It is important that parents gather all information about friends of their missing child, names, addresses, and possible places your child frequents. It is also very important that the police and Sheriff’s Department have a recent picture of your child. This picture cannot be returned but is critical for those who are working to help you locate your child. You may want to search your child's room, looking for notes or any possible clues to their destination.
Between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday the parent must also come to the Juvenile Court to complete the paper work including the signing of a warrant that will be sent directly to the Sheriff’s Department Warrant Division. The information will then be entered in the National Crime Information Center and the Georgia Crime Information Center. This will allow any law enforcement officer that has contact with your child to input your child’s name in the system and recognize the child as a runaway. See our to find a guideline for collecting helpful information the court and law enforcement officials will need.
When a parent comes to the Juvenile Court to complete the warrant they will be given phone numbers to contact day or night should their child return home or should they receive any pertinent information about the child’s whereabouts. Parents should always remain active in the attempt to locate their child and be thinking about how to handle the situation once the child returns home. Anytime you obtain information about your child's whereabouts call the Sheriff at 770-499-4600.
Unless there are criminal charges it is unlikely that the runaway child will be held in a detention center. Status offender laws restrict time limits that apply to this population of children. This is why it is important for parents to have a plan in place to address the problems that lead to their child’s behavior. The Juvenile Court will assist parents in offering options with regard to the handling of first time runaway charges. If there are repeated runaway charges or criminal charges the child may be held in detention for a hearing within 48 hours or the child may be released to their parent pending a court hearing.