To become a volunteer, you will likely have to fill out an application, provide references and undergo a background check. The opportunities range from fundraising and planning special events to helping promote missing persons-related legislation and aiding in investigations.
Most of these organizations have training programs that will educate you on the problem of missing persons, including common reasons for disappearance, statistics on who is most vulnerable and what kinds of services are available to aid families whose loved ones have vanished.
Depending on the type of volunteer work you choose, you will receive specialized training in things like search management and crime scene preservation, information on how to prevent abductions, and instructions on how to report and assist in searching for missing persons [source: Texas Center for the Missing].
You can also join organizations like the National Association of Volunteer Search and Rescue Teams (NAVSAR), which raises money to buy equipment and supplies to help investigators in their searches and acts as a contact for government agencies who need highly trained volunteers to aid in their investigations [source: NAVSAR].
Some organizations also offer classes on FBI databases, such as how to use the National Missing Person's DNA Database and IAFIS [source: Oregon State Police].
There are also a number of nationwide conferences and workshops for law enforcement, educators, victim service coordinators and volunteers on topics like current policies and practices in tracing missing persons, DNA testing and collection kit protocol, cold case analysis technology and proven investigative techniques [source: Fox Valley Technical College].
For more information about how you can help, see the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Doe Network. "International Center for Unidentified & Missing Persons." (Accessed 4/27/09)http://www.doenetwork.org/
- FBI. "Uniform Crime Reports." (Accessed 4/28/09)http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm
- Fox Valley Technical College. "Investigating Missing and Unidentified Persons." (Accessed 4/28/09)http://www.fvtc.edu/public/content.aspx?ID=1238&PID=3
- Garden of Innocence. "Providing Dignified Burials for Abandoned Children." (Accessed 4/28/09)http://gardenofinnocence.com/
- Krajicek, David. "America's Missing." TruTV. (Accessed 4/27/09)http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/forensics/americas_missing/2.html
- National Center for Missing Adults. "Missing Adults." (Accessed 4/27/09)http://www.theyaremissed.org/ncma/gallery/ncmalistview.php?wstr=Adult