Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash Children
Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

A preschool age boy went missing near Danville around 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14. Searchers found the child around 6:40 a.m. the following day.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel possible until it happens in your community. 

On Tuesday night around 8 p.m., four-year-old Wyatt, now safely reunited with his parents, wandered away from his Pittsylvania County home. An alert went out from the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) to several hundred residents in the immediate area, and word quickly spread on social media. The description asked for people to be on the lookout for a four-year-old white male with blonde hair and blue eyes, also stating his first name. The child was last seen playing in a kiddie pool on his family’s back porch and wasn’t wearing any clothes.

Local media stations — even the classified ads paper — started spreading the news about the alert around 9:30 p.m. Neither the boy’s last name nor his photograph were publicly released by dawn. Search efforts involved the child’s parents looking for their son prior to calling police about 30 minutes after he initially went missing, to Virginia State Police helicopters and PCSO drones flying over the area equipped with heat-sensing tools, as well as K-9 units, emergency responders on four wheelers, and responders on foot. A makeshift headquarters for the search arose at a nearby church building. 

While efforts first appeared to rely on emergency responders, the agencies also coordinated multiple volunteer search groups to disperse throughout the area during the night. As of daybreak, there were no updates on the boy’s location or condition, but less than an hour later, searchers found Wyatt safe and sound — along with a neighbor’s dog he’d likely wandered off with nearly 11 hours prior. 

The pair were found approximately three-fourths of a mile away from the boy’s home.

Parental Preparation 

Of course, no parent ever wants to think about the possibility of their child going missing — especially at such a young age. But whether a toddler gets lost in a crowd, a child explores beyond their boundaries, or a natural disaster displaces a family, it’s beneficial to have a plan in place. That can involve a specified meeting place if a separation occurs, but there are also preliminary actions parents and caregivers can take before a potential situation arises. 

For children of all ages, contacting your local law enforcement agency is a good start. They’ll be able to tell you about any services they offer or can direct you to additional resources in your area. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recommends completing a National Child Identification Program kit. Each package includes an inkless fingerprint set, cards for detailing your child’s physical descriptions, a place to keep current photos, and an easy-to-use swab for a DNA sample.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, headquartered in Alexandria, also provides a Child ID Kit online. The informational packet prompts caregivers to write down their child’s personal information, physical characteristics, distinguishing characteristics, and medical information. The form also provides a designated location for a current photo of the child, as well as a full set of fingerprints. 

All kids develop at different paces. When it’s appropriate for your child, it’s a good idea to start going over “real” names for Mommy and Daddy, grandparents, and any other loved ones who may go by something other than their given names. Practicing surnames, or last names, is important, too. If your child isn’t old enough to remember their full address, start by practicing the name of the nearest city or town together. And instead of speed-dialing loved ones every time, try taking a few extra seconds to verbalize each digit of a potential emergency contact’s phone number while dialing.