May 2012: National Missing Children’s Day
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25th National Missing Children’s Day. May 25th marks the anniversary of the day in 1979 when 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York City street corner on his way to school. Etan’s disappearance brought national attention to the issue of missing children when his photograph was one of the first to be featured on milk cartons.
Now, 33 years later, the disappearance of Etan Patz has once again taken center stage, as police searching for new evidence in the case received a surprising confession from a now-51-year-old man living in New Jersey. The man, who was 18 at the time, worked in a convenience store located next to Etan’s bus stop. He admitted to investigators that he lured young Etan to his death with the promise of a soda, and then disposed of his body in the trash. Police investigators and prosecutors are working together to corroborate the man’s confession with physical evidence.
The tragedy that befell the Patz family back in 1979 serves as a powerful reminder why National Missing Children’s Day is so important. It is a time for family members, friends, public agencies and private organizations to gather in their communities and rededicate themselves to raising public awareness about our nation’s missing children, recognize the heroic efforts of exemplary individuals who have devoted their lives to protecting children, and honor the families who never give up hope.
2012 National Missing Children’s Day Ceremony
This year’s National Missing Children’s Day ceremony was held on May 23, 2012, at the Department of Justice’s Great Hall. Deputy Attorney James Cole addressed the gathering and highlighted the department’s ongoing commitment to protect children from abduction and exploitation and bring missing children home. Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and Yvonne Pointer, parent of an abducted child who went on to become an international educator on child abduction and youth violence, gave remarks. This year’s observance celebrated heartwarming stories of recovery, honored those who could only be with us in our hearts and memories, and reaffirmed our country’s determination to find those children who remain missing.
During the ceremony, the extraordinary efforts of America’s law enforcement officers, private citizens and organizations were recognized. This year the Department of Justice presented awards to the following individuals:
2012 Internet Crimes Against Children Attorney General’s Award: Special Agent Tim Erickson, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Bismarck, North Dakota
Missing Children’s Law Enforcement Award: Detective Randall Abbot, Hartford Police Department, Hartford, Wisconsin
Missing Children’s Citizen Award: Letter Carrier H. Keith Ray, U.S. Postal Service – South County Branch, Oakville, Missouri
Missing Children’s Child Protection Award: Assistant State Attorney Gregory Schiller, Office of the State Attorney, West Palm Beach, Florida
2012 Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest Award: Elisa M., Las Vegas, Nevada
More information on this year’s observance may be found online.
Publications for Children and Families
As part of the core mission of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Program (MECP) — to increase awareness about missing children and support the journey to recovery by providing services and resources directly to those most in need, that is, to children who have been abducted, their families and the professionals who work with them — MECP recently assisted the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) in translating into Spanish two documents that have been highly acclaimed by parents and children alike. Both of these translations were unveiled at this year’s National Missing Children’s Day ceremony.
¿Y yo? Cómo sobrellevar el secuestro de un hermano o una hermana
What About Me? Coping With the Abduction of a Brother or Sister
Written by siblings of children who have been abducted, this guide will help and support children of all ages after a brother or sister has been kidnapped.
No estás solo: El camino del secuestro al empoderamiento
You’re Not Alone: The Journey From Abduction to Empowerment
Five young adults who experienced abduction firsthand talk about their personal journeys in the wake of their traumatic ordeal. This guide will empower children who have survived abduction by letting them know they are not alone.
To find more publications specially designed for abducted children and their families, please visit the MECP resource center at http://mecptraining.org/mecp-resources/.
Make Noise for Missing and Exploited Children with AMECO
Missing children around the country need a voice to speak for them, carry the torch, raise awareness and offer hope to their families. The Association of Missing and Exploited Children’s Organizations (AMECO) encourages us to offer our voice for missing and exploited children by launching its Make Noise for Missing and Exploited Children campaign. The campaign urges parents to talk to their children about safety and encourages children to report their experiences. The goal is to create a forum where parents, children and others can speak openly about the plight of our nation’s missing children and raise awareness about the challenges their families face.
As an international association of nonprofit organizations, AMECO provides a collective voice on issues related to missing and exploited children and their families. AMECO is comprised of nonprofit missing and exploited children’s organizations that assist in the prevention of child abduction and exploitation and in the recovery and reintegration of missing children. Member organizations help searching families and law enforcement recover missing children, help missing and exploited children and their families gain access to services, and offer a variety of education services to help prevent children from being abducted or becoming a victim of exploitation. AMECO provides direct referrals to members of the public and to professionals who assist the families of missing and exploited children. To find an AMECO member near you, please visit the membership directory.
More information on the Make Noise campaign can be found at www.amecoinc.org; click on Make Noise under the How You Can Help section.
Kid Gloves for Therapists Handling Abducted Children
By Melissa “Liss” Haviv
Take Root is a nonprofit organization established in 2002 by adults who survived the experience of child abduction. The organization offers a peer support program for former victims of child abduction, and is dedicated to bringing their unique insights on both the short- and long-term repercussions of their experiences to the field of child service providers in the form of professional training, child-centered best practice protocols, public education and advocacy projects.
The centerpiece of one Take Root initiative, Kid Gloves for Handling Abducted Children, is a best practices protocol for enacting recoveries in long-term abduction scenarios — that is, in cases where the abduction environment has, over time, become the child’s known home-life. The Kid Gloves Approach (KGA) strives to minimize trauma while maximizing the potential for creating a healthy transition by providing assistance to the child from the moment of first contact.
A child who is being recovered from a long-term abduction may need time to absorb and process new information before being reunited with and/or returned to the searching family. Take Root encourages mental health professionals and juvenile justice practitioners to recognize that a “recovery event” is actually comprised of several mini-events, each of which has major significance to the child. These include removing the child from his or her home environment, reuniting the child with his or her searching family, and permanently returning the child to the care and custody of this family — whom the child may perceive as dangerous; unloving; strangers; and/or at risk as a result of their contact with the child.
Mental health professionals play a vital role in the recovery of abducted children and in the reunion of the long-term missing with their families. Take Root’s KGA protocol describes two critical functions performed by mental health providers, in addition to their role in facilitating a structured reunion meeting between child and family:
- Case Therapist: A mental health professional who specializes in the psychosocial aspects of abduction and recovery and provides services as needed to everyone involved in the case. The case therapist helps the searching family prepare for the recovery and reunion process and administers a full mental health assessment once the child is found, followed by ongoing treatment for the child and reunited family post-return. The goals of treatment are to help the child become part of the family to which the child is being returned, help the child process his or her experiences, and help the family understand what the child has endured and how the child may have changed as a result.
- Field Therapist: A mental health professional in the jurisdiction in which the child is located who accompanies law enforcement to the recovery and is specially trained to provide developmentally appropriate approaches to communicating with a distressed child. The field therapist offers the child comfort, information about the recovery and reunion process, a chance to pack and physically separate from his or her surroundings, and crisis intervention, as needed.
Take Root encourages mental health professionals who are working with a searching family and a returning child to keep in mind the following guidelines, which grew out of members’ own recovery and reunion experiences:
- Acknowledge that the child may have mixed feelings about the abduction and his or her recovery.
- Remind parents not to take it personally if the child is fearful, hostile or otherwise rejecting of them.
- Let the child set the pace for sharing details about his or her experiences and showing affection.
- Recognize that both the child and the left-behind family have changed during the child’s absence.
- Expect developmental complexities — the child may simultaneously be pseudo-mature, or adultified, and socially behind.
- Respect the experiences that the child has lived, including the new identity and relationships developed during the abduction.
- Be mindful of the sources of “pressure to be OK” imposed upon the child – see Take Root’s publication The Myth of the Magic Bullet for more on this topic.
- Above all, foster a transition for the child rather than another identity rupture like the one that occurred when he or she was abducted.
To commemorate National Missing Children’s Day, Take Root wrote an Abducted Child’s Bill of Rights, which places the child’s needs at the forefront of the recovery process. Mental health professionals and other service providers across the country are invited to “ratify” the bill by agreeing to uphold its principles. To view and sign the bill, and to learn more about the Kid Glovesinitiative and its accompanying training workshops, visit Take Root’s Institute of Child Abduction Studies website at www.icas.takeroot.org or call 1-800-ROOT-ORG.
To learn more about Take Root’s other training, consultation and educational resources, please visit the group online at www.takeroot.org.
MECP News and Events
Poster Contest Gallery Now Online
This year, 41 states and the District of Columbia submitted their winning entries from among the thousands entered by fifth graders across the country. The theme of this year’s contest was “Bring our Missing Children Home.” Images of the 2012 state submissions are now available on the poster contest blog. Congratulations to all state winners!
Request Training and Technical Assistance From the Missing and Exploited Children’s Program
MECP provides specialized training and technical assistance to local, state and tribal law enforcement, nonprofit organizations and juvenile justice practitioners. MECP can provide consultants, training programs and other support to help your agency respond to the missing and exploited children issues in your community.
For more information, contact MECP at 1-888-347-5610 or [email protected]. To submit a request for training and technical assistance, please complete a training and technical assistance form.
Publicize Events Through MECP’s Training Center
MECP’s Online Training Center is your one-stop shop for news and events related to juvenile justice. OJJDP providers and other constituents are encouraged to submit information about their juvenile justice-related events. To submit a request to have your event publicized through the MECP Training Center, click here.
Missing to Trafficking: Connections Between the Missing Child and Sex Trafficking Webinar
On May 16, 2012, MECP hosted a webinar exploring the connection between missing children and the sex trafficking trade to bring this under-the-radar world to light. MECP partnered with the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program for this presentation. Panelists included representatives from the Dallas Police Department’s Child Exploitation Squad and the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program. Slides from the webinar are available here.
Please stay tuned for our next MECP monthly webinar on June 20, 2012. For more information about the event and registration, please visit here.