In recent years, help from the media has been sought in publishing/airing Missing Person’s Reports. Notably, the reports are of missing teenagers, mainly females.
This has become a growing concern to the populace, as voiced on call-in programmes and social media, especially in cases where the same child goes missing for a second or third time.
Legally, the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) issues those reports after 48 hours (two days) when an individual can be legally declared missing. We have noticed in some of the cases that the time indicated in the report as to when the child left home and the date the report is issued, is beyond two days. Is it that the parents/guardians do not immediately make a police report? Are they waiting out the days in hope that the child would be located or return home safely and avoid the negative publicity? Or are there instances where the RGPF lapse in the timely issuance of Missing Person’s reports?
However, after the circulation of the report, when the child is found, the RGPF informs the public that he/she has been safely returned home or reunited with family without an explanation. Then speculation surmounts as to where that child had been and what caused him/her to not return home as expected.
Children running away from home should be seen as a cry for help, even in rebellion, indicating that something is wrong. At home, there are usually cases of abuse in its various forms, such as lack of attention and love or problems at school. Then there are cases where children feel overwhelmed by their many responsibilities including chores and homework, coupled with also being a parent to younger siblings when their parents are working.
Two other common reasons for runways are peer pressure to engage in wrongful acts or influences of teenage boys or adult men with whom young girls may be in a relationship.
Nonetheless, we are pleased learn that when a child is reported missing, the Police inform the Child Protection Authority and other collaborating agencies, and a joint investigation is conducted. This investigation is to determine what caused the child to run away from home and what sort of help can be provided. While the Police’s intervention is to lay criminal charges as warranted, the other agencies provide psychosocial support to the child and the extended family as needed or remove the child from the home where it is deemed unsafe.
Of interest, are instances where alleged missing teenagers have commented under the RGPF or media houses’ social media posts indicating that they are not missing with the use of expletives. So, is it that it’s usual that these teenagers would spend time away from home and return when they feel like, but in that one instance a parent decided to file a report?
Their language used on social media, not show care for being offensive to adults and authority or the repercussions of their actions, is worrying.
In cases where the same teen runs away more than once, is it that the Police and other entities have not done a thorough investigation to determine the root cause; hence, it was not addressed, resulting in a continuation of that action? But, in those cases we ask those involved to not get weary, but to try save as many of our young people as possible.
Parenting is touted as a challenging task, especially of teenagers. When overwhelmed, we urge parents, especially single parents, to seek support from trusted family and friends.
Children too, can be overwhelmed by the stresses of life, some of which they have little control over. Therefore, they too need a trusted mature adult; family member, teacher, church leader/member, they can talk to for guidance and support.
As for church’s role in all this, praying for and with the children or the family is insufficient, as sometimes professional help should also be sought on behalf of the children or parents when such situations are brought to light.
Further, the issue of a runaway teen is not a topic of gossip among church or community members, but, an opportunity to provide or seek help; a place of rescue and refuge, a source of food and money to get by or just a listening ear.
The same applies to the school environment. A child who went missing from home would usually miss a few days of schools. And unknowing of the reason, the onus is on the teachers/principal to provide counselling and encourage the student population to not make this cause for bullying.