On the first part of this series, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) discussed family abductions including misconceptions, statistics, risks, responses and resources available for such cases. On this installment, we deep-dive into the experience of family abduction – its impact, consequences, and considerations to the child and the searching parent.
No one seemed to be more qualified to talk about this than Abby Potash who went through a family abduction firsthand when her son was taken from her. She turned this tragedy into a passion when she volunteered for Team HOPE and became a spokesperson for missing children. She currently serves as Team HOPE’s director where she’s in charge of curriculum development and training, managing team consultants and volunteers, and working with the families personally.
Points she unpacked on this course include:
- The challenges that those dealing with family abductions face and how NCMEC and Team HOPE is turning these into opportunities.
- Myths about family abduction and the common reasons why family abductions transpire.
- The detrimental effects of family abduction to the child that renders it another form of child abuse.
- The number of children killed by their parents and family abduction cases where the child was murdered by the abducting parent.
- A rundown of important terms to understand related to the topic.
- Understanding the experience of a family abduction based on Abby’s own experience of having her son abducted by his father.
- The perspective of the child and the parent on the day of the abduction and the duration of being abducted.
- Common feelings and behaviors manifested by searching parents that may leave them depressed, withdrawn, distracted, forgetful, and fatigued, among others.
- How the abduction can affect the family and friends of the child, both the searching and abducting parents, and their community.
- The misconception that reunification is a happy ending when the actual event and process is much more complicated where both the searching parent and child must deal with their thoughts and emotions.
- What children are often told when they’re taken by the abducted parent which causes a disconnect with the searching parent and their lives before the incident.
- Working through recovery with the help of professionals who can help plan the reunification, prepare both the child and parent for the first sighting, and provide support during the healing phase.
- Best practices for reunification, potential issues, and long-term effects to look out for during and after reunification.
- How NCMEC’s pool of professionals can provide assistance to the child, parent and community to deal with the impact of family abduction cases, and law enforcement in the proper handling of such.
- Understanding what a searching parent needs during times of uncertainty to provide them the support that they need.
- Topics clarified during the Q&A were about:
- How many volunteers and staff Team HOPE has.
- Society’s progress in terms of awareness and sensitivity to abduction and missing child cases.
- The number of family abduction cases vis-à-vis non-family abductions and how the impact of each differ from the other.
- The types of support NCMEC provides to the family of the missing child and the steps they’re involved in during the case.
- How the media conducted themselves and impacted Abby and Sam’s reunification, and recommendations on how the media should be managed for such cases and incidents.
Resources Mentioned During the Webinar:
- “The general public sometimes does not understand how overwhelming an abduction can be and those actively involved in the search of a missing person in fact re-victimize the family. Great suggestion to keep the media at bay when a re-unification occurs.” — Dwight
- “Every webinar you can host that speaks to the child’s perspective, or placing the child first, in a parental abduction, is invaluable!” — Edeanna
- “Having the perspective from the adult next to the child’s was extremely helpful to see how they differ.” — Katie