Webinar presenter Abby Potash answered a number of your questions after her presentation, The Crime of Family Abductions Part 2: Impact, Consequences, and Considerations. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: How big is Team Hope? Maybe if we define this as how many staffers and how many volunteers?
Abby Potash: We have 8 teams of volunteers. We’re a national program so we have volunteers all across the country. We have 4 teams that are comprised of families who have had experience with endangered runaway, non-family abduction, lost, injured, missing and Section 5779. We have another team of same case type that’s Spanish speakers. We have a team of volunteers whose children have been parentally abducted, domestic and international and also we have part of the Spanish speaking team that case type also. And then we have a team of family members whose children have been sexually exploited.
We’ve trained probably over 500 volunteers. We are celebrating now our 20th anniversary as a program and we’re having a training at the end of this month and we’re going to have over 100 Team HOPE members at that training.
Audience Question: You talked about some of the most hurtful things that people experienced while they’ve been searching for their kids, do you think the awareness and sensitivity has gotten better over the years or there’s still a tremendous amount of work and awareness yet to be done?
Abby Potash: I think there has been some advancement in this but I think that there’s still a lot more that needs to be done. My son when he’ll tell somebody that he was abducted, he says that you can see visually how upset this makes them and when they say what happened and he tells them that he was abducted by a parent, he could actually see their bodies relax and says it was okay and it didn’t matter. I think there really needs to be more awareness and child-centered too that this really is not about which parent that the child should be with, it’s really about the child having their right, not being treated as a possession and having the right to be within their life with everyone they love.
Audience Question: Do you have a sense of what percentage of abductions are family abduction?
Abby Potash: I don’t know the exact stats on that but I will tell you that the family abduction is a much much larger percentage than the non-family abduction. Much more likely that family member is going to take the child.
Audience Question: How does NCMEC help parents deal with, manage or cope with that ambiguous loss. Can you go into more detail of how you actually support the parents?
Abby Potash: That would be through Family Advocacy Division and through Team HOPE Family Advocacy Division. We’ll help parents find a local therapist who understands about ambiguous loss to work with that parent and help them with this. There’s always going to be that ambiguity. It’s not something that’s going to go away but Team HOPE understands that, that not knowing because we have many volunteers whose children are still missing – some are still missing for 30 years or more and so they’re really able to help someone with that not knowing and I think one of the major things that help is helping them hold on to HOPE. Actually, it was a law enforcement who said this to me when my son was missing that when you wake up in the morning you can go either way. You can say “My child has been missing for so long” or you can wake up in the morning and you can say ” Today I am one bit closer to finding my child”. So HOPE can help with that ambiguity.
Audience Question: How was the impact on a parent for a family abduction situation, how was that impact different than the impact on a parent who’s have their child abducted by a stranger? Is there a difference? Can you talk about that?
Abby Potash: There is a difference but there’s also a similarity. Not knowing where your child is and being fearful for their life in both situations. They’re both serious but with a non-family abduction, there’s more of that not knowing who this person who took my child and what are their attention with my child. With a family abduction, we’ve seen in some of the statistics that I’ve quoted it doesn’t necessarily mean that the child was safe with the parent.
Audience Question: Once the child is located, what’s NCMEC’s role, what are the actual steps, what does NCMEC do, what do they manage, how do they handle and how can law enforcement make sure to utilize you more if appropriate?
Abby Potash: Once the child is recovered the department that usually takes over with that is our Family Advocacy Division and with Team HOPE where we stay with the parent for as long as they need us and we’re there to support them, to help them find their strength, to cope with what’s happening. With law enforcement, we can help them with that also because law enforcement doesn’t have the time to spend with the parent and we do. We have the time so we can help them, we can empower them, we can help them prepare to take care of what happens next. Because once the child is recovered, our case management division will close the case. They don’t follow it after.
Audience Question: What are your thoughts on all of the media attention at that point of first sighting and then in terms of reunification after a lengthy time period of being missing? How do we manage the media in that situation? What are your recommendations?
Abby Potash: The media should be held at bay, they should not even be at the site of the recovery until well after the parents and the child have that reunification. Because the media is very intrusive and as what happened with myself and my son it really impeded both of our healing and the recovery of what happened. As well-meaning as the media may be, they really should not be involved in this at all. What my law enforcement did after my son was recovered is they help a press conference where just I spoke, this I think was a couple of days after my son was recovered, I spoke to the media at a press conference without my son and talked about the abduction and the recovery and to help create more awareness with the public. But the media should not be involved in this at all.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of The Crime of Family Abductions Part 2: Impact, Consequences, and Considerations.