When a sibling goes missing
In my debut novel Reckless Beginnings, the main character, Tammy Mellows is devastated when her older sister, Donna runs away and couldn’t be found. With no leads and nothing to go on, three years later, she’s still missing. I don’t want to give too much away, so you’ll have to read the book to see what happened to Donna. But I do want to bring awareness to National Missing Children’s Day which is on May 25th and organized by OJJDP – Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
When did National Missing Children’s Day Begin?
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25th as National Missing Children’s Day on the anniversary of Etan Patz’s disappearance. Etan was six years old when he was abducted and was the first child to be profiled with a photo on a milk carton.
Each year the U.S Department of Justice, through OJJDP recognizes individuals, organizations, and agencies that have recovered missing and abducted children and protecting children from exploitation. The department recognizes the awareness each May at the annual Missing Children’s Ceremony in Washington D.C.
The flower, Forget-me-not is the recognized emblem for this day.
Facts about missing children
In my book, Tammy Mellow’s sister Donna was a juvenile when she ran away. According to the FBI National crime Infomation Center, (NCIC) – as of December 31st, 2017 there are 88,089 active missing person’s records. 32,121 of those are juveniles under the age of eighteen.
Statistics show many of these are runaways or abducted by family members, due to family disputes and custody battles.
Common law jurisdiction – A missing person can be declared dead in absentia or legally dead after seven years. The time frame can be reduced in major battles or massive disasters. Such as the attacks on 9/11.
In 1982 Jonny Gosh was reported missing to the West Des Moines Police Department by his parents, while he was delivering newspapers. At the time there was a customary three-day waiting period before police responded to a missing persons’ report. Gosh was never found, but his case prompted new laws, resulting in missing person’s reports involving minors are given immediate attention.
Kristen Smart – A student at California Polytechnic State University, disappeared after leaving a late night party on May 25th, 1996 during Memorial Day Weekend. Campus police were unsure if she left on vacation and did not treat her disappearance as a potential crime. She was never found. The delayed response resulted in the passing of the Kristen Smart Campus Act two years later.
Amber Alert – America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response. A child abduction alert system that originated in 1996. It was named after Amber Hagemania, a nine-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas. The system has saved over eight hundred children in America.
Using today’s technology to find missing juveniles
In my book, Donna ran away during the late seventies. A time when there were no cell phones or internet. If she’d had a cell phone, it could have been traced. A photo of her could have been splashed all over social media. Connections could have been made. More people would have been involved and the response would have been quicker.
Technology has aided in bringing many abducted and runaway children home to their families.
The Flip-side of Technology
Unforchantly, with the rise and popularity of social media, a world of risks and danger exists for young teens. A high number of runaways and abduction cases are because of social media interactions. Everyday juveniles are lured into meeting strangers they’ve met online.
If your child is active online, strict rules need to be enforced. Most importantly, talk to your child. Discuss the dangers and the signs to look for. Be involved with your child’s accounts. Check their friend’s lists. If they experience anything that seems suspicious, let them know its okay to talk to you about it and as a parent, make sure you follow up and report it.
Remember those still lost
On May 25th – National Missing Children’s Day I will be lighting a candle next to a bouquet of Forget-Me-Nots, for all the children that are still missing and hope they will be returned to the families safe from harm. I hope you will do the same.
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