The statistics are well publicized: 2,000 children are reported missing every day in this country; nearly 800,000 children disappear for at least a brief period of time every year; one in four girls and one in eight boys will be sexually exploited or abused before reaching adulthood.
Child Quest International (CQI) knows that the vast majority of those missing have been taken by a non-custodial parent, have run away, or have been thrown out of their homes. The number of children kidnapped by others is far smaller, though absolutely devastating in every case.
Many of these children fall through the cracks of the "system" since they often do not reach the media due to their circumstances. Also, many feel that since they choose to leave or with a parent, what harm could they really be in? Let us assure you, family abductions and "runaways" or "throwaways" are very much victims too.
The Facts About Family Abduction:
- Each year, over 203,000 children (compared to 115 "Stranger Abductions" in a one year period) in the U.S. are abducted by a family member, usually a parent.
- The biggest motive for family abduction is revenge against another parent, not the child's safety.
- More than half of abducting parents have a history of violent behavior, a criminal record, or a substance abuse problem.
- Children abducted by family members often suffer severe lifelong emotional and psychological damage.
- To break emotional ties with the left-behind parent, and perpetuate their own control, some family abductors will coach a child into "disclosing" abuse by the other parent. Abducted children are often told that the other parent is dead or did not really love them.
- As the child quickly adapts to a fugitive's lifestyle, deception becomes a part of life. They are taught to fear those they should trust, such as police, doctors, teachers, and counselors.
- Abducted children are often given new identities. This can have profound and sometimes crippling psychological impact during the critical developmental stages of childhood. In extreme cases, the child's sexual identity is covered up to avoid detection.
- In extreme cases, the abducting parent leaves the child with strangers at an underground "safe house" where health, safety and other basic needs are extremely compromised; while in others, children are so badly mistreated by their abductors that they desperately want their abductor to leave them. In rare family abduction cases, children are murdered by their abductor.
Sadly, children taken by parents are at risk. Parental kidnapping has often been viewed as a domestic issue of little concern to anyone else. But parents who abduct their own children are often acting out of desperation, attempting to wreak revenge and pain on the spouse left behind.
These children are uprooted from their routine with family, friends, school and church, and often live a life on the run with assumed names. They often do not receive proper medical attention or education. In essence, they lose half their heritage and most of their past. Parental kidnapping is a crime, a felony in almost every state.
The Motivation & Risk Factors Associated With Runaways:
- 47% of runaway / homeless youth indicated that conflict between them and their parent or guardian was a major problem.
- 80% of runaway and homeless girls reported having ever been sexually or physically abused. 34% of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported sexual abuse before leaving home and forty-three percent of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported physical abuse before leaving home.
- Childhood abuse increases youths' risk for later victimization on the street. Physical abuse is associated with elevated risk of assaults for runaway and homeless youth, while sexual abuse is associated with higher risk of rape for runaway and homeless youth.
- 32% of runaway and homeless youth have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.
- 7% of youth in runaway and homeless youth shelters and 14% of youth on the street had traded sex for money, food, shelter, or drugs in the last twelve months when surveyed in 1995 (a number that has only increased with the prevalence of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children).
More than 1.6 million youth run away in a year. Nearly a third of the children who flee or are kicked out of their homes each year engage in sex for food, drugs or a place to stay, according to a variety of studies published in academic and public health journals. But this kind of dangerous barter system can quickly escalate into more formalized prostitution, when money changes hands. And then, child welfare workers and police officials say, it becomes extremely difficult to help runaways escape the streets. Many become more entangled in abusive relationships, and the law begins to view them more as teenage criminals than under-age victims.
What We Are Asking:
Please join Child Quest (CQI) in protecting children by supporting our services. Become a sponsor and a faithful supporter and together we can make a difference in the lives of children who need our help. We provide FREE investigative and recovery services to families of missing children in addition to emotional support and referrals in the devastating event a child goes missing.
Why We Are Asking:
Your involvement is vital to our success. CQI does more than make flyers, we provide comprehensive case management for searching families that includes investigation services, website services and support, as well as reunification coordination and emotional support.
With your help, we can continue to reunite loved ones and protect even more children.
Child Quest is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the prevention and recovery of missing, abused, and exploited children. At CQI, we pride ourselves on “Keeping Hope Alive” for all missing children and the left-behind families. We work diligently with families and law enforcement alike to locate missing children using various investigation techniques focused on information dissemination and case management. Child Quest NEVER CHARGES A FEE to searching families or law enforcement.
Since our inception in June of 1990, Child Quest has assisted in the recovery of over 3,000 individuals. CQI focuses on two vital aspects of child safety. First is search and recovery. We are recognized by local and national law enforcement agencies as an important element in the search and recovery effort, and the support we provide to left-behind families is KEEPING HOPE ALIVE.
More information on missing children available on our websites www.childquest.org. Our join us on Facebook or Twitter to join the conversation about child safety issues.
Writer & Editor: Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International.