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Find our missing children

Elinor Tatum | 4/12/2011, 4:40 p.m.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that in a one-year period of time, 797,500 children went missing in the United States of America. That's an average of 2,185 children reported missing per day. Of that number, 203,900 were children abducted by members of their own family, 58,200 were non-family abductions and 115 were kidnappings.

When you hear the stories of missing children, the ones that get the most airtime tend to be those of the children who are not of color. Of the children that go missing each year, according to the statistics provided by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 53.1 percent (27.6 percent Black,19.4 percent Hispanic, and 6.1 percent biracial) are children of color while 42.2 percent are white. Yet if you follow the news media, you would have no idea that many children from our communities go missing each year because it is just not widely reported. Children of color are 47 percent of the population yet 53.1 percent of those missing.

These numbers are staggering. Our children go missing at a higher rate and our children are not reported on in the same way. One of the reasons for this is that in many cases when a child of color goes missing, they are classified as runaways rather than children that have been taken. In fact, our children are more likely to be taken and less likely to be reported on.

Just like most things that affect the Black community and other communities of color, this issue is not reported on adequately. Keeping our children safe needs to be our No.-1 priority. And we need to make it a priority in our community and in other communities as well.

Several years ago, I contacted the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and wanted to start a partnership between the Black Press and their organization. The idea was that Black newspapers would highlight a child of color that had gone missing each week in all the Black newspapers across the county so that the plight of missing children of color would finally get some attention. Their response to the proposal was that they could not provide us with that information each week. I translated it to: "Finding missing children of color is not our priority." Therefore, we must make it our own.

Not only do we have to make sure the media covers the disappearance of our children, we must also do everything in our power to safeguard our children.

There are several ways to do this:

Have a child ID kit done for your child. Many police stations and chain stores offer free ID kits. There is an organization called Amber Ready (www.amberready.com).They have created a system that, within minutes of abduction or of a child gone missing, can send out an effective missing child alert to the authorities with all pertinent information as well as a picture of the child. The sooner information is available to the public, the easier it is to locate children.

Some tips from the Center for Missing and

Exploited Children:

Teach your children to run away from danger.

Never let your children go places alone.

Know where your children are and whom they are

with at all times.

Talk openly to your children about safety.

Be alert to and aware of your surroundings.

Report any suspicious persons or activities to law enforcement.

Keep our children safe and teach them to be safe. It is up to us as a community. Our children are our responsibility.