Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hope...Our Greatest Asset

How many times has someone tried to make you feel foolish for holding out hope for a missing child? In the face of overwhelming odds, you have no doubt been made to feel this way at some point if you have been volunteering on missing persons cases for any length of time.

Society has a brutal way of quashing hope. We see it every day in the way the media covers a case. We deal with it on a daily basis in the chat rooms and on facebook pages as we muddle through and exhaust ourselves trying to convince others that this one can beat the odds, this one doesn't have to be another statistic. We encounter this every time we tell a friend or colleague that another child has been found murdered and that colleague's response is, "Well, I figured that's what would happen." It is a constant and uphill battle. It is not enough that we must fight through the rising emotions of fear and anger that are constantly threatening to overtake us, we must at the same time fend off the barrage of negativity and doubt thrown in our faces.

People can make comments to us that make us feel almost embarrassed for daring to believe that a child could be found alive after an abduction, especially if that child has been missing for an extended period of time. However, look at the case of Elizabeth Smart or Jaycee Dugard, what about Shawn Hornbeck? Try to tell their parents or loved ones, or those of us who worked on those cases that hope does not matter. Sometimes it seems we keep going just to spite those who would try to convince us we are wasting our time.

These may be well-meaning people who believe it is their duty to inform us that the odds of finding a child safe after a disappearance are slim to nil, or friends who have become jaded and cynical enough to believe that it is just too dangerous to hope. It is just too painful to become emotionally invested. What they do not seem to understand is that hope is the glue that is holding us together, keeping us going, and without it, we simply do not know how to move forward.

Hope is what we cling to when the detectives have nothing new to tell us. Hope is how we go out to one more day of searching, one more day of painstakingly combing over every square inch of ground at an excrutiatingly slow pace so nothing is missed, even when nothing is found for days or weeks. Hope is how we deal with meticulously scouring the internet resources for contacts, email addresses and fax numbers to find that one person out there that might recognize this child and when we don't get any response, hope is how we are able to get up another day and begin the whole process all over again. Hope and faith are not merely something we say to one another to cheer each other up. They are at the very core of what we do and at the heart of why we do it.

The Bible tells us that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is worth more to us because of the very nature of what we do. It is worth more than kind words, more than accolades, and it will keep us going through even the worst kind of tragedy.

I've known many people who have said to me, "You better be careful, you should not give those people false hope. They are only going to be more disappointed and hurt in the end." If only I had the same chrystal ball that these individuals did, I could save so much time. The reality is, none of us knows what the outcome of any particular case will be. I have seen things take the strangest turns when initially things seemed so obvious, so black and white that even seasoned law enforcement were stunned at the outcome. I am not suggesting that we broadcast to everyone that we are definitely going to have a happy ending with a particular case, I am only saying that we dare not suggest otherwise until we have solid evidence to do so. We do not want to cast doubt on the outcome and risk alienating people who would otherwise be willing to help. Likewise, we do not want to give our volunteers any reason to give up.

Do not let those who would hamper your involvement on these cases get the better of you. Perhaps they are trying in their own way to prepare you for what they are sure will be a tragic outcome. Keep going, keep hoping and know that at the end of the day, you will have done the right thing by not giving up on that child and not giving in to fear and doubt. There are children out there whose lives may very well depend on that.

Friday, July 22, 2011


For some time now, many people have been asking me to expand on my blog to include more information on current cases, cold cases and most recently, human trafficking.

I originally began this journey to bring resources to our community of searchers so as to learn and utilize the skills we need to make us better at what we do and avoid the typical "burn-out" in the process. However, I realize that we cannot simply stop what we are doing (i.e. searching for these precious missing and exploited children) to learn these skills. This is something that is going to be an on-going process that will have to be done on a time-permitted basis while we are working the cases and helping our teams to find these children.

In order to help more with that process, I intend to step-up the efforts to provide additional resource materials to searchers working on specific cases, whether current or cold, and information to potential searchers who are looking for ways to help find missing children.

To that end, watch for new changes in the blog here that will include additional pages and information related to the international human trafficking/sex trade and how it affects us here in the United States and abroad. I will be covering various areas of discussion relating to trafficking, conducting interviews and sharing stories. I will begin posting information this week but it will continue to grow over time. If you have a website or information about a case that you would like to share, please email me and I will respond promptly.

I will also be expanding the current cases section, adding new links and details for those cases many of us are working on or have worked on in the recent past. This area will be monitored for the latest news on these cases to bring you what is most relevant and active. If you have a particular site or reference information you wish to be included in one of these cases, please email me and I will review your submission and get back to you promptly.

The cold case area will also be updated and I am still taking additional information from readers/followers. If you have a case you would like me to highlight or share with others, please email me and I will review it as quickly as possible. This area will be on-going so check back for new updates.

Thank you for your continued readership. Please check back often as these changes will be taking place over time, with the initial expansions beginning this week.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Stress

As Christmas and other Holiday seasons wind down and the New Year approaches, we will be experiencing the familiar "let down" from the holiday highs and may even be feeling a bit depressed. Everyone's gifts have been opened, there are no surprises left. Family and friends have gone home and those who were able to take a brief vacation will be heading back to work. Children will be going back to school. The happy glow of sharing gifts and enjoying family time will all fade away as we settle back into our normal routines. Many of us are left feeling sad and lonely during this transition so take extra time to check in on your friends and loved ones as the holidays come to a close. Be sure to also check in on those who have lost someone close to them or who are struggling with a missing child or adult at this time. Make time to reach out to other volunteers who are working on missing children and adult cases as well.

The hustle and bustle of shopping and visiting with family and friends, and getting caught up in the festivities is supposed to be a welcome distraction from our stressful, daily grind of work and regular routines. However, it can become so busy and hectic that it is not a vacation at all but rather just adds to our stress and leaves us feeling run-down, even exhausted.

It should be an escape for those of us who spend much of our time searching for missing children. Yet, most of us do not take the holidays off from our searching. In fact, we spend even more time on line in social networking circles running down more leads and scrambling to get posters out even as we are mailing our Christmas cards.

We do this because we can't imagine what it's like for those families whose children are missing during this holiday season. Every day must be a nightmare, but Christmas has got to be especially hard because it is that magical time for children. Every child should be home for Christmas, decorating the tree, making sugar cookies and excitedly waiting to open presents from Santa. Tragically, we know all too well that many missing children will not be opening such presents this year. Yet, we hope they will be here to open them next year, and that is what we work for, that is what keeps us going.

Let us look toward the New Year and pledge to work even harder on behalf of these missing children but also look for new outlets for our stress, new ways to cope with the pressure of what we do. Talk more about it with your family, friends and colleagues. Open dialogue where you previously were reluctant to do so. Be more proactive about this very important work that we do and share your questions and concerns with others.

God Bless and Happy New Year.

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