Carla Proudfoot has been with the Maryland Center for Missing and Unidentified Persons since October 1985. She is the state’s Missing Persons Clearinghouse Manager and assisted in the creation and implementation of the Maryland AMBER Alert Program in August 2002.
What is unique to your AMBER Alert/missing persons program, and what do you think makes it successful?
Our AMBER Alert plan is only activated by the Maryland State Police on behalf of other police agencies in the state. We strive to get the alert out as quickly as possible; we have timed the process, and have seen dissemination within eight minutes. I think having one entity issuing, vetting the information, and making the decision makes it happen very quickly. Only the AMBER Alert coordinators make the decision, based on each case meeting the criteria.
What motivates you to find missing and abducted children?
I ran away when I was 12. I vividly remember what it was like. In my opinion, it seems as though the “runaway” is not a concern for the general public, unless it’s their child. These children need help, and they don’t get any.
Please share details about your most memorable success story in working a missing child case. How did the AMBER Alert support the outcome? What were the most important lessons learned?
Unfortunately, the one I remember most was the first one, but it did not end well. The child was deceased before the parent ever reported the child missing. Most of our success stories are because of issuing the AMBER Alert. The abductor sees the alert and leaves the child somewhere, or contacts the police or reporting person.
How have your career and life experiences, including your work as a Clearinghouse Manager strengthened your commitment to helping endangered, missing, and abducted children?
I am very passionate in getting help for the kids falling through the cracks. Sometimes too passionate. In 36 years, I’ve seen some change, but not nearly enough. I have been saying for too many years that the kids need help now, the current system in place is not helping. No one wants to provide money to help, but if they don’t receive some help, we will be paying for them in the future when they are part of our homeless population or dealing with HIV, drug or alcohol addiction, etc.
What would you like to see happen with your AMBER Alert program and other programs in the future?
I would like the AMBER Alert and the Silver Alert to be the only alerts. The more alerts there are, the less likely people will pay them any attention.
How has training helped you in AMBER Alert cases?
I believe it has helped that the AMBER Alert plans are similar and share much the same criteria. Meeting and working with other state coordinators has assisted us in cases where the child has been taken to another state. We know them, they know us, and as a result we meet with very little opposition in gaining assistance.
What advice would you give to other AMBER Alert partners?
Stick to the criteria, and keep politics out of it as much as possible. Remember the reason for the alert is to save a child’s life.