Very sad article about runaways

The New York Times has done a very good article about teen runaways and why they run and why they stay away and how they survive. It’s really sad — especially the statistic on page 3 that 75% of runaways are never even reported missing, either because the parents don’t want them around or because they’re afraid to get the police involved.

I read an excellent book by Todd Strasser, Can’t Get There from Here, about a group of teen runaways and throwaways living on the streets of a major American city — New York, I think. They ranged in age from 12 to 22. They lived lives a lot like what’s described in the newspaper article.

I think maybe if a runaway is from a good home and they don’t come back, maybe it’s because they’re ashamed. They might not want to go home after having done things like sell drugs or sell themselves to survive. They might be afraid their parents will be mad at them and will reject them.

China’s missing children

There’s a fairly huge child trafficking problem in China right now. Little kids are getting kidnapped left and right. Authorities believe the children are taken by childless adults wanting a child of their own, by son-less households wanting a male heir, or by kidnappers hoping to use the children for labor or sell them for adoption abroad. The magnitude of the problem cannot be underestimated. According to this article:

There are 30,000 to 60,000 children reported missing every year in China, according to the ministry. But people like Tang, who are involved in the search for these kids, say the number is closer to 200,000.

Many, if not most cases are not formally listed because local police are unwilling or unable to investigate crimes that usually involve crossing provincial borders. As well, many of the parents think police might be complicit in the kidnappings. It is a lucrative business that can net about $4,000 for each boy sold and about $1,000 per girl.

To make the problem even more tragic, a lot of times even if the abducted children are recovered, it’s hard to reunite them with their families. Many of the kids were too young at the time of the abduction to remember their identities, and if they were never officially listed as missing, obviously that just makes it more difficult. There’s a national DNA database parents of missing children can contribute to, but not enough have done so and DNA testing is really expensive. This article says it costs the equivalent of $350 per test in Beijing, although the fee varies depending on what province you’re in. Wikipedia says the per capita income in China is a little less than $6,000 annually. I’m not sure whether the parents pay for the DNA testing or the government does.

The Chinese government has just posted this website with photos of kidnapped children and suspected kidnap victims whom they have recovered and are trying to identify. It’s written in Chinese, so I can’t read it and I doubt many of you viewers can either, but you can see the photos of those adorable kids with eyes that haunt you.

I’m not sure how effective this website will be. It seems like the majority of abducted children were probably stolen from poor families and I’m not sure how much internet access the average Chinese person has. But it can’t hurt, might help.

Photographs in my resolved section

As everyone knows, in my resolved section I put one photo of each located missing person as well as their names and particulars of disappearance and recovery. This is just so people can remember the original case — it seems to be easier to recall the face than the name.

Once in awhile I get emails from people in that section asking me to take their messages off. (In one case, it was the daughter of a missing man who was found dead, who asked me to remove his notice. She didn’t say why.) I always comply with such requests. The last one was in June. This woman, a former runaway, was really ticked off and got all in my face about it (capital letters, etc) threatening to sue me. I removed her photo and reminded her that, as I say on my contact page, all she had to do was ask politely.

I confess that I am occasionally troubled, especially about young runaways. It’s a sad fact that teens occasionally get silly or compromising stuff about them posted online (often they do the posting themselves) and it comes back to haunt them later when they become adults and choose to apply for colleges and jobs. If a potential employer Googled the applicant’s name and discovered from my site that they had run away as a teen and were gone for a considerable length of time, that might kill the job right there no matter how qualified the applicant was. The employer might write him or her off as flaky and unstable or something.

However, my removing all mention of the located individual from my website would not solve this problem, as there usually are a lot of other websites out there with their names and often their pictures too. I Googled a random runaway boy who was found months ago and found him mentioned on six other sites besides mine. I don’t like to contribute to this problem, of course, but I can’t prevent what appears on other sites. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to simply remove resolved cases without any notice at all. Actually, I do this quite a lot, like in cases where I find out a person was found ages ago, sometimes even before I posted their casefile — this happens all too often, as other databases forget to remove their located MPs. But whenever I can I try to post a notice. It’s just easier for the viewer that way.

I suppose I ought to just go on as I have been doing — post notices, and then remove them if the (former) MP asks me to.

On a related note, once in awhile a relative of an MP is upset because I posted an unflattering photo (often a mug shot) of their missing loved one. I just got an email a couple of weeks ago about that. The woman claimed people were saying “unkind things” about her uncle because of his mug shot on my site. Well, I had no other photo. (She has since provided me one.) And I believe in posting as many pictures as possible, so even if I have other pictures I will post mug shots unless someone asks me not to. I reason it this way: if the MP is alive, who knows what he looks like now. Snaps and portraits show him in a relaxed and happy state. But maybe he looks like his mug shot now — strained, stressed, upset. Though I can certainly understand the position of the relatives too.