(Editor’s note: This story is the fourth part of the multi-series “Last Seen…,” examining the real life horrors of kidnapping that began with Issue #7 and concludes in Issue #12. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs, and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.)
by BRANDI ORTIZ/News Editor
Children are being abducted, have gone missing, abused, and far worse all around the world.
Caroline Humer, program director at the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, which oversees the Global Missing Children’s Network (GMCN), spends her life making sure organizations are taking the correct precautions in finding missing children.
Coming from the United Kingdom, Humer found out about the non-profit organization through a friend.
“Once I saw what was being done,” says Humer, “I just knew that it was my calling. It’s where my passion is.”
Though she received a business study degree from the Nottingham Trench University in the United Kingdom, many of the volunteers that work for GMCN have backgrounds in criminology and psychology. Some are even lawyers.
“It’s an organization for anyone who cares for the protection of children,” Humer says. “It’s the passion that drives us, not necessarily the study.”
The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children takes on the job of forming policies and protocols for other organizations to ensure the safest, fastest, and most reliable ways to find the missing children.
“On a global scale, we focus on building an infrastructure and the response to the issue of sexual exploitation and abduction,” says Humer.
Though Humer only works at the International Center, there are many other associated organizations.
“We have branches all over the world,” Humer says. “Some in Brazil, the UK, and Singapore.”
Because there are many different protocols throughout other countries and some cases never make it to a report, it has made it harder for researchers to create an average of how many children go missing annually.
“The numbers between countries like Australia, the UK, and especially the U.S., vary drastically because of how they are being collected and what that country defines as missing,” says Humer.
Currently, there is not a set definition throughout the Center that defines ‘missing’, according to Humer, but what the organization would like to see is that it be defined by, “a child under the age of 18, whose whereabouts are unknown should be considered missing.”
“Once you have a definition, there should be different categories of missing,” Humer says.
The categories are supposed to help the police outline what type of case they are investigating, such as if it is a case of abduction by a family member, a stranger, or a runaway. Sometimes there are times where the case is unknown.
“It could be a case where the person is just lost, and we do not know the circumstances,” Humer says.
Other times, it could be the case of unaccompanied missing minors, where they are refugees or they travel to a foreign country and do not have a parent to take care of them.
The Center hopes to bring to the public’s attention that any child could go missing at any time. “Any parent with a young child should be very aware of how quickly a child could walk away without realizing,” says Humer. “There are many times where you could have a 2-year-old or a 3-year-old and they go missing, if it is only for a couple minutes.”
Even a couple minutes of what could be just a child playing hide and seek, could quickly turn into a possible abduction, Humer says. Those few minutes could turn into day, months, even years.