*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
When they hire new employees at Walmart, they hold a meeting with the new associates. Among other topics, managers discuss the store's Code Adam policy.
When a parent or guardian reports a child as lost or missing, every employee is required to drop what they are doing and search for the child until they are located. It excluded cashiers and employees who were clocked out on their lunch breaks from having to join the search.
My mother worked as a Walmart employee for a decade. She shared some of her insights about what caused the typical Code Adam and how employees, including herself, reacted to hearing the words "Code Adam" over the store's loudspeaker.
"When parents take their children to the store, sometimes they forget they came in with a child. They get busy shopping for all the good deals when they remember that child. Then the parents get all excited and run around the store, calling out their children's names, and eventually, they go to the front desk to ask for help," my mother explained.
That's when Walmart issues an Code Adam. The rule at the store is that all floor associates have to drop everything they are doing to look for the missing child.
According to my mother, she found the process unnecessary because, in her experience, all the Walmart Code Adams that took place at the location where she worked while she worked there resulted from inattentive parents losing track of their children. She said her fellow associates would go berserk looking for the lost child under clothes racks and inside fitting rooms while she kept her head down and kept working.
"What kind of parent does not watch their child at the store?" my mother asked me. "That is and always should be a parent's job. I, for one, would not leave my department while working to be an Code Adam 'hero.'
"The 'hero' should have been the parent or parents, in some cases, to monitor their own children, and they should have taught their children not to wander away from them. In my opinion," my mother continued, "they tailored the Code Adam system at Walmart toward parents who shouldn't have had children in the first place."
Store employees found most of the misplaced, not missing, children playing with the merchandise in the toy department or the electronics department. They always checked those departments first for a reason. Kids naturally migrated to where the excitement was.
On the other end of the spectrum, there were parents who kept their children on a leash as if they were puppies. "Is that really necessary?" my mother asked. "Just think of watching your kids at Walmart as your responsibility. No leash required."
My mother's experience does not negate the experiences of families of lost or missing children in the United States or around the world. It was fortunate that the children who caused the Walmart where she worked to issue an in-store Code Adam were always found safe and sound. She acknowledges that not everyone is as fortunate.
As they say, it's better to err on the side of caution.