The two guiding principles that drive missing person cases are chaos and order. Chaos rules the family. Their precepts of normalcy are obliterated, and their faith is oftentimes challenged, as they are thrust into a foreign environment that defies logic and experience. Law enforcement, especially if the jurisdictional agency has limited experience investigating missing child cases, is also subject to chaos. Chaos reigns in the community as rumor and innuendo inevitably insert themselves and anonymous bloggers level outrageous theories or point accusatory fingers at family members. Finally, chaos is multiplied as the second wave of predators inserts themselves into ongoing investigations.
I can speak from experience that there is nothing to prepare a family for the disappearance of a child. Whether they are missing for ten minutes in a department store, or months during a lingering investigation, panic and fear quickly dominate our emotions. But, because of our experience, professionalism and issue knowledge the KlaasKids Foundation can be a stabilizing force after a family invites to search for their missing child.
One hopes that order dominates official efforts to investigate and solve the case. Fortunately, many if not most law enforcement agencies have missing child investigative templates or protocols to guide their efforts. Unfortunately, most law enforcement agencies have little to no experience in missing child investigations, and their best efforts can be chaotic at best. However, as State and Federal resources are drawn into investigations protocols, templates, and experience usually, but not always, increase exponentially.
Media is a wild card. In the rush to be first many media outlets throw caution to the wind and report rumor as fact. Or, they offer speculation and opinion as hard knowledge. When Polly was missing certain television reporters would breathlessly report that her remains had been found every time a dog bone was turned over. However, there are also media outlets that take a much more rational, cautious and deliberate approach to these troubling cases. Again, the approach is dependent upon experience, attitude, and a desire to be first as opposed to do the right thing. Personally, I believe that newspapers demonstrate the most restraint and usually provide the best overall service. That is because viable newspaper stories historically have depth based in knowledge. Conversely, the most damage can unusually be found on the blogosphere. After all, blogging requires zero experience, many bloggers exist under the cloak of anonymity, and they are not burdened by standards or ethics.
Then there is the world of non-profit agencies. We are the gray area between government and the private sector. Most non-profit child locator services exist to help the family. Although many NPO’s in our sub-category are founded with the best of intentions, not many survive long enough to pursue long term goals or intentions. Those unable to survive, and those numbers have increased these past few years, dissolve because of dissent from within, they are unable to achieve sustainable funding, or do not have the leadership and vision necessary to get beyond adrenalin driven emotional response to tragedy.
For more than 17-years the KlaasKids Foundation has worked very hard to bring order to our approach. We attempt to respond to all aspects of the missing child issue with professional standards and reason. We adhere to proven protocols, some of which we have developed and others that we have adopted from other agencies. We represent families as we seek the cooperation of law enforcement, community and media. In other words, we try to bring order and provide hope to families that are frozen in fear as they try not to seek salvation beyond hope.
Our most critical, difficult and sensitive work is always in the immediate aftermath of tragedy. We talk with families, offer counsel and resources and when necessary intervene with search and rescue resources. We must demonstrate to law enforcement that our participation will enhance their efforts, will remove responsibility from their overburdened shoulders, and that we can be trusted with a seat at the table. This kind of trust will never be assumed, but must be earned every time that we show up at the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, resistance has not decreased as our portfolio has increased. Therefore, we must continue to pursue the dual goals of bringing order to chaos, and assisting in the recovery of missing persons.