Why do I need to know about Code Adam?

I had never heard of Code Adam until the day last spring when I needed it. It was a rainy day and I took my 4-year old daughter (known as Girlchild) to the Toys R Us up the street to burn off a little excess energy in the two-story play area. She’s pretty good about not wandering off in a situation like this, so while she played I was talking to other moms and scanning a magazine I’d brought with me,periodically looking up to visually locate and check on her. Then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t see her.

Here’s where I made my first mistake. I stood up, called for her, went into the base section of the play area to look for her and call for her. Then I removed my shoes and crawled through the play area while some of the parents outside watched me slowly getting more and more frantic (and not offering to help!)

I climbed out and started searching the store myself, the restrooms, her favorite aisle where the train table is set up, etc. I wasted about ten minutes this way. Finally, feeling like the world’s worst mom, I went back to the party planning station near the play area and told the employee, semi-tearfully, that I’d lost my child.

They literally sprang into action, the employee at the desk grabbing a walkie-talkie and calling out “Code Adam, we have a Code Adam alert!” She then asked me for a description of Girlchild and her clothing and shoes. Another employee, a manager who happened to be walking by, grabbed his radio and instructed that the doors be locked. I stood there feeling helpless while the store employees literally dropped EVERYTHING to look for Girlchild. I got a little nervous when I heard over the radio that an employee had spotted her and then lost her. She came up to the front of the store on her own and I nearly squeezed her in two after running halfway across the store when someone radioed she was headed up front.

She’d gotten bored in the playscape and followed a little boy she’d been playing with out when his mom told him it was time to quit and had been following them around the store the whole time. The mom in question had no clue Girlchild was following her. I can’t speak to whether or not this was true but I choose to believe it because I like to believe the best of people.

When Girlchild and I were reunited and she confirmed to the staff that yes, I was her mommy, they radioed a “Cancel Code Adam” signal, the doors were unlocked, and normal retail life resumed.

I cannot even begin to imagine what might have happened had I not alerted that employee and Girlchild just wandered freely or followed someone else out of the store. If you ever, EVER think you may have lost your child in a public place, immediately tell an employee BEFORE searching on your own. I was lucky but the time I wasted trying to find her myself could be the difference between a happy reunion and tragedy if someone with malicious intent has lured your child away. Do not take that chance!

Next entry will cover details of Code Adam, including the steps involved, standard procedures, federal law, and a brief list of some of the major retailers who participate.