How It Works

Once law enforcement has been notified about an abducted child, it must first determine if the case meets the criteria for triggering an alert. Local and state programs establish specific criteria; however, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children suggests that before an alert is activated, law-enforcement officers should confirm a child has been abducted and believe that the circumstances surrounding the abduction indicate that the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death.

There should also be enough descriptive information about the child, abductor, and/or suspect's car so that an immediate broadcast alert will help.

If these criteria are met, alert information must be put together for public distribution. This information can include descriptions and pictures of the missing child, the suspected abductor, a suspected vehicle, and any other information available to identify the child and suspect. The information is then transmitted to area radio and television stations and cable systems via the EAS, and it is immediately broadcast by participating stations to listeners. Radio stations interrupt programming to announce the Alert, and television stations and cable systems run a "crawl" on the screen in addition to a picture of the child.

The AMBER Alert system is currently operated in 46 states and has been responsible for the recovery of 121 children as of january 2004. While most communities and states have AMBER Alert plans, many do not have comprehensive, statewide coverage or the ability to communicate state-to-state, a critical need when an abducted child is taken across state lines.

Although the AMBER Alert plan has been extremely successful since its initiation, it has not yet been implemented on a national level. National AMBER Alert Network legislation would help with state-to-state notification by establishing an AMBER Alert Coordinator within the Department of justice to help states with their AMBER Alert plans. AMBER Alerts would continue to be issued by local and state law-enforcement agencies, and the coordinator would be responsible for facilitating regional coordination of AMBER Alerts, particularly with interstate travel situations. The coordinator also would help states, broadcasters, and police set up more AMBER Alert plans and set minimum voluntary standards to help states coordinate when necessary. In addition, the bill will provide for a matching grant program through the Department of Transportation for highway signage, education and training programs, and equipment to facilitate AMBER Alert systems.

The AMBER Alert message encourages the public to look for a missing child or suspect. In the event a citizen spots a child, adult, or car fitting an AMBER Alert description, the person should immediately call the phone number given in the AMBER Alert and report as much information as possible.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) The leading national professional medical association dedicated to treating and improving the quality of life for children, adolescents, and families affected by mental, behavioral, or developmental disorders. The nonprofit AACAp was established in 1953, with more than 6,500 child and adolescent psychiatrists and other interested physicians. Its members actively research, evaluate, diagnose, and treat psychiatric disorders.

The AACAP widely distributes information in a effort to promote an understanding of mental illnesses, advance prevention efforts, and assure proper treatment and access to services for children and adolescents.

The academy provides public information, acts as a government liaison, promotes education, and gives expert testimony on issues affecting children. The academy also offers continuing medical education through scientific meetings and institutes and works with managed care organizations to establish appropriate coverage for children and adolescents. The group promotes research and training opportunities and reviews training curricula for child and adolescent psychiatry training programs. (For contact information, see Appendix I.)

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) A nonprofit professional organization of pediatricians who dedicate their efforts and resources to the health, safety, and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. The AAP has approximately 55,000 members in the United States, Canada, and Latin America, including pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pedi-atric surgical specialists. More than 34,000 members are board-certified and called Fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FAAP).

The AAP was founded in June 1930 by 35 pediatricians who met in Detroit in response to the need for an independent pediatric forum to address children's needs. When the AAP was established, the idea that children have special developmental and health needs was unusual. Preventive health practices now associated with child care, such as immunizations and regular health exams, were only just beginning to change the custom of treating children as "miniature adults."

The American Academy of Pediatrics works to attain the best physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. The AAP currently has 51 sections with more than 29,000 members interested in specialized areas of pediatrics. This includes a section for resident physicians with more than 9,000 members. Sections present educational programs for both their members and the general membership of the AAP in order to high light current research and practical knowledge in their respective subspecialties.

The AAP publishes a monthly scientific journal Pediatrics, a continuing education journal called Pediatrics in Review, and its membership newspaper AAP News. The AAP also produces patient education brochures and a series of child care books written by AAP members. The AAP executes original research in social, economic, and behavioral areas and promotes funding of research. It maintains a Washington, D.C., office to ensure that children's health needs are taken into consideration as legislation and public policy are developed. (For contact information, see Appendix I.)

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