Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Emotional Challenges of Joining Physical Searches for Missing Children

I recently read an article, "Searching with Dread for Missing Children," written by Bob Greene, a CNN Contributor. In the article, Greene discusses some of the emotional challenges that we face as searchers. Although I would be more pleased if the author had expanded his writing to list the many times that missing children have actually been abducted or wandered off and had been rescued, I am pleased that the opinion from his viewpoint of the average searcher is a positive one and he has painted us in a positive light. I do get the sense, however, that perhaps he thinks we may be misguided even fooled at times but yet he seems to admire our tenacity nonetheless.

The article echoes many of the comments made here and in many forums in the past concerning the hopeful attitude that we must consistently maintain. While the article is focused mainly on physical searches for missing children, I found it relevant in relation to the reasoning behind the hopeful attitude we embrace while searching for missing children in any situation.

Most of us have been involved in searching for missing children via poster distribution, mass mailing, email campaigns, facebook/social networking, etc. Some of us have had the opportunity to be involved in the hands-on physical searches as well. When you are physically out there searching for clues of a child who is missing, it changes the dynamic of the search for you personally. You become intimately and actively engaged in the effort and both physically and emotionally invested in its outcome.

Many searches involve a child that has wandered off or somehow become separated from his parents. In some cases, even after extended periods of time, due to the undaunting efforts of the persistent and diligent searchers, the child is found safe and unharmed. This is rewarding beyond words but can leave searchers physically and emotionally overwhelmed. Unfortunately, many endings are not happy ones and searchers are either devastated at finding a deceased child or left in a hellish limbo when neither the child nor any clues or evidence of him is found. 

At times, when we are searching for a missing child we may be doing so under a cloud of suspicion over one or both of the child's parents or someone connected to loved ones.  Alternatively, we may learn from the outset that law enforcement suspects the child was abducted and they are canvassing the neighborhoods and interviewing sexual predators and offenders that reside in or frequent the area. When a child is missing under these circumstances, there is always an added sense of urgency. We must do our best to separate ourselves from these details, however, and stay focused on the task before us.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the reason a child is missing, when we are searching for clues to find that child or evidence of him, we do so focused on the hope that the child is alive and that we will get to him in time. We have to maintain a sense of optimism because that is what drives us forward. Without hope, we simply do not have the same mindset and motivation to keep us going, searching for that lost child.

You can volunteer to join in a search for a missing child on a single case, as a basically untrained but dedicated volunteer, or you can become a trained Search and Rescue member as an individual or part of a team. If you are interested in pursuing Search and Rescue further, I would suggest contacting the National Association for Search and Rescue via their website. They are a wonderful organization that I am proud to be a member of and they offer a wide range of training and continuing education for all levels from beginners to experts.

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