Operation Lookout provides free services to families of missing children

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By Josh Daniels

Kidnappings and runaways claim over 1,400 children on an annual basis, and Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth is there to help.

Founded in 1984 by Michael and Melody Gibson, Operation Lookout was originally purposed to solve the problem of missing children in the Northwest, primarily in Washington state. Today, the charity services the needs of families on the national and international level, all free of charge. The center does not receive any federal funds, though, so it relies on concerned individuals and organizations for its financial support. And support it needs–Operation Lookout’s website boasts a $1.65 million annual budget.

The charity’s design is to assist missing children and their families with free poster and photo distribution, investigative casework and search assistance when time is of the essence. A 24-hour toll-free helpline is also available at 1-800-LOOKOUT. Through all of these available services, Operation Lookout has an overall case-resolve rate of 82 percent.

Aside from the above, the center involves mental health professionals, law enforcement, and attorneys in its efforts to find the missing children. Each April, Operation Lookout hosts the annual “Northwest Coalition of Missing Children Investigators and Professionals Symposium” to provide training seminars on international child abductions. The symposium educates on tactics, dangers, and updates regarding the recovery of children across the globe.

In addition to these efforts, Operation Lookout publishes its own magazine to provide pictures of the missing children, along with prevention and safety tips for families who have children of their own.

Operation Lookout has been involved in over 10,700 cases since its organization, including the high-profile Mikelle Biggs case. Biggs has been missing since January 1999, but Operation Lookout continues to provide assistance to the Biggs family in hopes of someday locating her.

The center is always looking for support to further their efforts. Donations can be received through the United Way or through contacting the organization directly at 1-800-LOOKOUT or on the website http://www.operationlookout.org.