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Friday, September 7, 2012

Discussion: New Tools to Find Missing Children & Runaways Are Vitcims Too!

A recent article in the WestDesMoinesPatch.Com prompted this discussion with writer Beth Dalbey: 

Child Quest International (CQI): Technology and a variety of new resource have helped protect and locate missing children. Many things have changed, and mostly for the better. Unfortunately, we still have a serious issue with regards to our nations missing children (all missing children are victims: stranger abductions, family abductions, runaways, and throwaways) and the even uglier side of human trafficking that these children may become trapped in, especially "runaways". Working together is vital. Our communities need to be aware of the other resources available to them other then law enforcement. Law enforcement does a great job, but they cannot do it alone. The help of orgs like ours, Child Quest International, NCMEC, parents like Noreen Gosch and vigilant community members all provide and integral piece in the efforts to find those who have gone missing. The aid of social media has taken us into a new era of information dissemination. The ability to "share" information and photos across large populations and geographical areas in seconds is a tool like no other. Now, even QR codes play a role in finding children. Have You Seen Me? 

Beth Dalbey: You make a good point. Even if they are not abducted into human trafficking, runaways can end up in prostitution and pornography because it's a means to survive. 

CQI: Exactly, and far too often they (meaning runaways) fall to the bottom of the totem pole in the priority category because they are looked at as they "choose" to runaway... but what would you do if you had a father who molested you and a mother that didn't care enough to protect you? Harsh example, for a harsh reality. But the fact remains the same, when children run away from home with the intent to stay gone, it is often because they are faced with unstable family situations where leaving is the only option to them. And again, there are many reasons for runaways, but that doesn’t make them any less important. All missing children are victims in our point of view. 

Beth Dalbey: What are some of the changes society needs to make to move them up on the totem pole? 

CQI: That is not an easy answer. Awareness to the issue is definitely the first step, but from there it gets a little more complicated. We cannot just us law enforcement as the scapegoat, which is what tends to happen with a lot of families feeling like the cops “aren’t doing enough” or “don’t care”. I can’t tell you how many times we have heard that from left-behind families. But that is simply not the truth, law enforcement cares. Sadly though, they are faced with issues like homicides, stranger abductions, budget cuts, and other obstacles that hinder their ability to assist the runaway population more in-depth. The unfortunate part is that there are not a lot of resources available to these children outside of the limited law enforcement resources. And the resources that are out there are not promoted enough so that all families are aware of them. Furthermore, many are nonprofits with shrinking budgets and may one day disappear themselves! The groups that are there to help need funding to facilitate recovery operations, surveillance/investigations and reunification resources, especially since organizations like ours never charge a fee to those missing or their families for our services. But there is still more to be done. There are laws that need to be changed to make it easier for law enforcement to pick these children up and get them off the streets. Public perception of these children needs to change as well. As a community, we need to be aware of our resources and support those organizations that are making a difference in keeping hope alive for these children.

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