Let’s Get Active On National Missing Child Day
May 25, 2013

Let’s Get Active On National Missing Child Day

Nothing is more tragic than a missing child, which is why it is important to acknowledge and celebrate National Missing Children’s Day today and every year. National Missing Children’s Day is always on May 25th, according to Holiday Insights. It is a day to play a part in finding missing and exploited children, spreading awareness of missing and exploited children, and learning more about what we can do to prevent missing children.

As Holiday Insights explained, “The roots of National Missing Children’s Day goes back to the 1970s and 1980s. A number of high profile child abductions revealed no organized plans and efforts to find missing children. The first case was Etan Patz who disappeared from a New York City street while on his way to school, on May 25, 1979…In 1983 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25 National Missing Children’s Day. Since then, US presidents have annually marked this day.” No parent should suffer with a child missing, whether that child was abducted by another parent, family member, friend, or stranger.

In 2002, the US Department of Justice profiled missing children from both family and nonfamily abductions in two separate reports: Nonfamily Abducted Children: National Estimates and Characteristics and Children Abducted by Family Members: National Estimates and Characteristics. Though outdated by over 10 years, these two bulletins provide some great information about children abductions.

In the Nonfamily Abducted Children report, it gave some staggering information:

  • There were an estimated 58,200 child victims of non- family abduction, defined more broadly to include all nonfamily perpetrators (friends and acquaintances, as well as strangers) and crimes involving lesser amounts of forced movement or detention in addition to the more serious crimes entailed in stereotypical kidnappings.
  • Fifty-seven percent of children abducted by a non- family perpetrator were missing from caretakers for at least 1 hour, and police were contacted to help locate 21 percent of the abducted children.
  • Teenagers were by far the most frequent victims of both stereotypical kidnappings and nonfamily abductions.
  • Nearly half of all child victims of stereotypical kidnappings and nonfamily abductions were sexually assaulted by the perpetrator.

The Children Abducted by Family Members report provide some more important data to help us understand the gravity of the situation:

  • An estimated 203,900 children were victims of a family abduction in 1999. Among these, 117,200 were missing from their caretakers, and, of these, an estimated 56,500 were reported to authorities for assistance in locating the children.
  • Forty-three percent of the children who were victims of family abduction were not considered missing by their caretakers because the caretakers knew the children’s whereabouts or were not alarmed by the circumstances.
  • Forty-four percent of family abducted children were younger than age 6.
  • Fifty-three percent of family abducted children were abducted by their biological father, and 25 percent were abducted by their biological mother.
  • Forty-six percent of family abducted children were gone less than 1 week, and 21 percent were gone 1 month or more.

It is necessary to understand that just because a child is abducted by his or her parent does not mean that the child is any safer than with a friend, acquaintance, or stranger. Of course, sometimes people feel abduction is the only way to protect a child from an ill-fit parent, but that does not excuse the action.

In light of the Oklahoma tornadoes earlier this week where parents had missing children, and possibly still have missing children, today is a day to learn more about what we can do. Holiday Insights had some, well, insights into this. First of all, we should all review and enforce child protection and safety awareness not just for ourselves, but also for our families including our children. We must also always be ever vigilant and pay attention to what our children our doing, where they are, whom they are with, and when they will return. Establishing neighborhood watch groups is another good way to protect our children. If we communicate with our neighbors, we have many eyes watching out for our children. Plus, we would get to know our neighbors and establish bonds in order to build trust.

We must also become involved. So often we do not engage with others when they aggressively discipline their children in public or when we feel something is just off. We do not do this under the guise of respecting other’s privacy or simply because we do not want to deal with the confrontation. Though both of these are understandable, they do leave a sour taste because we know when we should act, become involved. We have to start listening to our intuition and act instead of turning a blind eye. Along those lines, we should report anything suspicious immediately. Again, trust ourselves to know right from wrong.

Finally, all parents should create and maintain records of their children including photos, fingerprints, identifiable traits, et cetera.

Beyond these, we should also pay attention to AMBER Alerts, which is “a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child” as the AMBER Alert website explains. The AMBER Alert system is an official Department of Justice initiative used to warn everyone when a child has been abducted. Here is where we can become involved and report suspicious behaviors.

So, today, check out the active AMBER Alerts, learn more about child safety and protection, and double-check your children’s record just in case. And play with, love on, and cherish your children for those who cannot and for yourselves. Children are gifts, miracles, and blessings. We should always value them.

Image Credit: ulegundo / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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