A release from the FBI:
The search for a missing 6-year-old with autism in 2018 left a profound impression on the North Carolina community where the boy went missing—and on the FBI’s teams that specialize in finding children who suddenly disappear.
Since then, a special agent on the FBI team that assisted in the search for Maddox has developed a one-page questionnaire for investigators to use when a child with autism goes missing.
“I wanted to make sure that if I had another opportunity, I’d be ready,” said Special Agent James Granozio, who works in the Bureau’s Charlotte Field Office and also leads one of the FBI’s four regional Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) Teams. These teams are composed of agents, intelligence analysts, operational specialists, and behavioral analysts who deploy on short notice when police departments request FBI assistance in missing child cases.
After the Maddox case, Granozio learned all he could about autism and autistic children, reaching out to local and national organizations for information. The feedback led to the development of the checklist of baseline questions that Granozio said should be asked immediately of parents or caregivers of missing autistic children.
“I want to know from the family early on: Does the child have a tracking mechanism? Is the child afraid of water or do they like water? If they like water, do they know how to swim?” said Granozio. “What about traveling at night? Is the child scared at night? Will they hunker down or will they like to move? All these things I want to know early on, and hopefully we can save a life.”
The questionnaire has been circulated among the FBI’s CARD Team, which includes approximately 75 members in FBI field offices across the country. They, in turn, have distributed the material to local law enforcement agencies during training exercises on child abductions and joint search and rescue operations. The CARD Team holds multiple table-top-style exercises every year to prepare local law enforcement on how to properly respond to the infrequent events.
When the CARD Team deploys, Bedford said, trainings provided to our law enforcement partners have proven to be particularly beneficial because everyone already knows how to work alongside the CARD Team. “So when the CARD Team comes in, the lead investigative agency doesn’t need to waste time developing a plan, they’ve got a very effective playbook that they can roll out immediately. And I think local departments really appreciate that.”