Saturday, September 4, 2010

Public Misconceptions About Volunteers Looking for the Missing

We all know how critical volunteer efforts are- including physical searches, poster distribution and amber alert notifications- in the search for abducted children and apprehension of the perpetrators. However, the general public has often misunderstood the very nature of what we do and who we are.

The public often erroneously assumes that there is a massive enforcement group out there of highly trained individuals skilled in law enforcement techniques and practices and working on salary who distribute the posters and hunt down the predators/abductors. While many if not all of us have acquired some investigation skills and finely tuned our attention to detail techniques, we do not have the same skill sets as trained, law enforcement personnel. While we work many times hand-in-hand with law enforcement, our roles are very distinctive. Most of us are not formally trained in the practices we employ and we do not get paid for what we do. We maintain other full-time jobs, families, and continuing education while volunteering on the side. When the average person learns of this, he is simply baffled. If you have so little free time, why would you spend it doing something like this? Shouldn't you be golfing? And for no compensation? What positive thing could you possibly get out of this? For volunteers, this line of thinking is entirely foreign to us.

Many outsiders who become distraught over the highly publicized cases they see  periodically on their nightly news programs are under the misconception that this does not happen that often. After all, if it did, wouldn't it be in the news more? The fact is that there is a non family/endangered missing abduction every 3 days in the United States. That's over 100 each year, and of those typically 3 or 4 make the evening news over the entire year. Our volunteers know all the cases, all the faces, and the posters never stop. This takes a toll on a person especially when that person has been volunteering for a long period of time. We need to learn to watch for signs of fatigue and stress from each other.

Our society has literally become so entrenched in the fast-food train of thought that the public assumes we should be able to find a missing child, apprehend the abductor and "close the case" in about the same span of time as a Law & Order Special Victims Unit episode.

We are out there searching, constantly, until days sometimes turn into weeks, months or even years. The longer it goes on, the more weary we all become. That is when we need each other the most. Unfortunately, an hour-long episode of CSI Miami might play well on prime time but it is not case in the real world. I am working on a half-dozen cases right now that involve children that were abducted over 2 years ago, and I am not alone.

The public often cannot appreciate the wide variety of volunteers from all walks of life, from many different backgrounds, who hold many different religious and political affiliations. We are scattered all of the country and even all over the world on many international cases we work on. We may not share the same ideals or even philosophies, but we come together to find missing children. We put our personal differences aside and work in an organized, professional manner to achieve this common goal. Our struggle is not without occasional differences in how a case should be managed or approached; we are human. However, at the end of the day, I would defy you to find any other group in the world that is more dedicated and more devoted than the group of individuals I am proud to work with.


Anonymous said...

While I agree that volunteer work is a thankless endeavor, I think you missed the mark on how society feels about missing children. You wrote: "Our society has literally become so entrenched in the fast-food train of thought that the public assumes we should be able to find a missing child, apprehend the abductor and "close the case" in about the same span of time as a Law & Order Special Victims Unit episode." I disagree. Society assumes that most missing children will never be found. If those unrealistic television shows have had an impact on society's way of thinking it has been to impress upon us that the first 24-48 hours are critical to finding a child and the more time that passes reduces the odds of recovering the child alive. An acquaintance once told me that when she receives a missing child flyer in the mail that she assumes the child was abducted by relatives as the result of custody dispute, or the child was abducted by strangers and is dead. Thank god and kudos to the searchers and volunteers that can keep the hope alive and continue to search for a missing child for years; because most of society believes the child to be dead and the efforts a fruitless cause. Thank you for helping!

angel4thelost said...

Thank you for your comments, I appreciate them. I would agree that there is a school of thought out there that many of the children that go missing will never be found. This is something we fight in addition to what we are already dealing with. Unfortunately, it makes it worse that of those who do believe we may be able to find and rescue children, often times expect it to be easier and quicker to do than is possible. It is hard to keep hope alive at times, but we must. Thank you again and please continue to share your ideas!

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