Hey, Billy, where'd you go?
Little Billy is missing, not abandoned, but still without parents or guardians or nanny. Maybe he's wandered off, or turned around and suddenly everyone was gone, or he's just really good at hide-and-seek. But he's missing, which may be the ultimate Adult Fear.
If he's gone missing from school, they might signal a Code Emergency and they will count the kids. They probably also called the police. The responsible adults will be searching everywhere for him, and hopefully found that he wasn't really missing at all, he just needed to go potty and didn't tell anyone.
A logical downside of having Free-Range Children is their tendency to not be where you think they are.
Sometimes, though, the trope can get sinister. Billy isn't just hiding so you don't get mad he ate the last cookie, Billy was taken. In these cases, it crosses over with I Will Find You territory, with the adults going to all ends to get their kid back from a known threat.
This is about the storyline of adults trying to find missing children. If it happens with babysitters around, you can bet they're going to pretend the kid's asleep until they can find them. If it's at the fairground, expect the cheesy music to get creepier as the parents turn around every kid they see.
It may be subverted with the child having run away from Abusive Parents, who are wanting him back to punish him. Usually the heroes discover this before they get the kid back, but sometimes they don't.
- Miss Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles: One episode focuses on a lost, German girl named Hannah who got separated from her mother and mistaken Koizumi for her.
- In Finding Nemo. Nemo the baby clownfish gets captured by divers, leading his nervous dad Marlin to look for him.
- The Rugrats Movie focuses on the babies Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil trying to send Tommy's younger brother Dil back to the hospital and ending up getting lost in the woods. Tommy's spoilt, older cousin Angelica later goes missing too when she sets out to look for her doll Cynthia Dil snatched from her earlier.
- In one scene in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Rodrick and Greg sneak off to a video game convention and their mother Susan notices they're gone. However, she sees them on TV and goes to the convention to tell them off.
- While trick-or-treating in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Elliot goes off into the woods to help the alien E.T. and stays the night, causing his mother to report him missing. However, he comes back and that's when she discovers E.T.
- In Hocus Pocus, three hundred years before the year the film takes place, a girl named Emily Binks goes missing, and it turns out she was kidnapped by three evil witches who take her soul. Later, the witches capture a little girl named Danni, but she gets saved.
- Prisoners is about two little girls gone missing and the hero detective trying to find them.
- Kidnap Features this trope. A lovely day at the fair turns into a tragic one when Karla's son gets kidnapped which subsequently turns Karla into an equal mix of Mama Bear and Determinator.
Karla: You took the wrong kid!
- The entire plot of Gone Baby Gone revolves around a missing little girl.
- Dandelion Wine: While walking with his brother and grandfather, Doug ends up going off with a group of neighborhood kids. A few hours later, his mom becomes worried when he still hasn't come home. She and Tom go out to the ravine to look for him.
- In Gangsta Granny, Ben goes off with his grandmother to steal the crown jewels and when he comes back, his parents reveal they'd been searching for him.
- In Gone Baby Gone two Boston area detectives investigate the kidnapping of a 4-year-old girl.
- One of the interactive Goosebumps books focuses on the main character's younger brother Denny going missing due to stepping into a time machine.
- In It, kids go missing in droves every 27 years in the town of Derry. The protagonists learn that an Eldritch Abomination that feeds off fear, known only as 'It', is responsible and set out to stop it before anyone else is taken.
- In one of the Treehouse books, Andy and Terry are babysitting Mr. Big Nose's grandchildren (six-year-old twins Alice and Albert and their unnamed baby sister) and several times, the children wander off and must be found by Andy and Terry. They never leave the treehouse, but it's so big and dangerous that it's just as dramatic.
- Happens fairly frequently in Warrior Cats: Cloudkit and his littermates head into the forest to go "hunting" during a blizzard in Fire and Ice and are found by Fireheart and Sandstorm, Tawnypaw goes missing in The Darkest Hour when she runs off to join her father's Clan, Leafstar's kits vanish during the SkyClan manga when Sol hides them in the hope that he'll be made a warrior after "finding" them, etc.
- Diff'rent Strokes:
- "The Spanking," from Season 1, when everyone thinks that Arnold — who is in line for a spanking due to pranks that he had pulled in the apartment building — is indeed missing. He is later found and eventually forced to take his medicine.
- "Sam's Missing," the very-real Nightmare Fuel episode when Sam fails to return home from a trip to the store. It is later determined he was kidnapped by a seemingly benevolent stranger who is anything but.
- The first season of Stranger Things revolves around family and friends trying to find 12-year-old Will Byers who went missing. Little do they know that he is Trapped in Another World.
- In the poem Emmeline by A. A. Milne, a small girl named Emmeline disappears for more than a week after being told her hands were dirty. Where she went is a mystery, but when she returns, she claims to have gone to visit the Queen, who said her hands were "purfickly clean".
- There are two objectives in Banjo-Tooie that involve finding lost children. In Witchyworld, Mrs. Boggy is looking for her three children, Groggy, Soggy, and Moggy. Groggy wants Banjo and Kazooie to bring him a cheeseburger, and then carry him back to his mom, since he is too fat to walk back on his own. Soggy wants Banjo and Kazooie to bring her french fries, and Moggy doesn't want to leave, but if you hit him, he will run back to his mom to tell on Banjo and Kazooie. In Terrydactyland, Scrotty's daughter, Scrut, has run away to visit Witchyworld, and ends up becoming captured and put on display in the Cave of Horrors as a "Mighty Evil Dinosaur". Banjo and Kazooie must destroy her cage, and then take her back to Terrydactyland with Chuffy the train.
- The Origami Killer from Heavy Rain kidnaps young boys, traps them in a pit that slowly fills with rainwater, and forces their fathers to complete a series of extremely dangerous trials in exchange for the chance to save their son before he drowns. Some of the fathers are never seen again. Protagonist Ethan Mars' son Shaun is kidnapped shortly into the game, forcing Ethan to undertake the trials himself. And he can fail them; there's a Bad Ending where Shaun is never rescued.
- Spirit Hunter: NG:
- Kakuya kidnaps Akira's young cousin, which kickstarts the plot and motivates him to play along with her game. Meanwhile, her mother is shown to be worried sick, spending most of her time at the police station while they try and fail to track her down.
- The Screaming Author chapter features a serial kidnapping case, with elementary-school girls being kidnapped every ten years around the Miroku Mansion. Said girls were victim to horrible experimentation by the house's owner, until the last victim turned into a spirit and started haunting the place.
- Arthur: In "Lost!", Arthur gets lost after falling asleep on the bus.
- In an episode of Babar, Princess Elizabeth goes missing in the castle, and her brother Prince Alexander thinks she has gone to the dump.
- Family Guy:
- In "Extra Large Medium", Chris and Stewie get lost in the woods during a camping trip.
- In "JOLO", Peter climbs onto a billboard to see if its three-dimensional prop pudding cup has real pudding in it, but finds that a kid is already in there. Joe identifies him as "the lost Nicholson kid", and Peter is hailed as a hero.
Peter: They arrested a custodian 'cause of you.