Indiana News

Indiana Silver Alert definition to expand, include kids with special needs

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on Thursday listed more than 25 children as missing in Indiana. 

In two weeks, a new state law takes effect to allow children with special needs to be included in the state’s Silver Alert system for missing people.

A report said 48 Silver Alerts were issued in 2017. When you hear the term “Silver Alert,” you might think, for example, of an older adult with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive, irreversible neurological disorder and the most common form of dementia. 

A bill from State Rep. Sharon Negele that became a law expanded the Indiana Silver Alert definition by adding “missing and endangered child.” 

The Republican from Attica said, “When we say ‘missing endangered child’ in the state of Indiana, we’re talking about a child that is incapable of returning to their residence without assistance because of mental illness, intellectual disabilities or another physical or mental disability.” 

Negele created the bill after a parent came to her saying a 15-year old son with autism wandered away from a facility. “There was no alert mechanism in place for his unique situation. They went through four days of trying to get an alert out, a quite traumatic event and they eventually found him.” 

So, what about children 2 or 3 years old who disappear from home but don’t fit the new Silver Alert definition or live with special needs?  

Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine said, “Get in that area and saturate that area for a search. Maybe they don’t necessarily actually qualify for a Silver Alert as a different platform. We will still utilize every resource we have.” 

Perrine said police said they are covered, “whether that be helicopters, drones, search teams, all public safety. Get as many people as we can to start that search for that missing child.”

As to why the new law does not loop in those children, Negele said local police usually find them very quickly. “We know that there are children who wander away from home at a very young age and it does happen probably much more frequently. We also know these situations are resolved more quickly. It hasn’t been found to be appropriate to put into one of these alert systems because local police are able to resolve these issues very quickly.”