By Sean Cruz
Portland, Oregon— National Missing Children’s Day is May 25. It is not a holiday, but the one day in the entire year that the families of thousands of missing children hope to have your attention. With very few exceptions, each grief-stricken family is entirely on its own in its search, and with few exceptions, the children were abducted by a parent or family member.
Each year, according to the US Department of Justice, more than 200,000 US children suffer the trauma of abduction by a parent or family member, some repeatedly. It is difficult to track the number of Oregon cases, because no Oregon policing agency keeps a record, not even the Oregon State Police.
An international child abduction case that originated in Oregon made the local news briefly recently and then vanished (just as the child had a year and a half before) a victim of the news cycle, before the Marenco case could illuminate the several public policy issues related to parental, family and church-sponsored kidnappings that are the real story here.
The National Center for Missing and Children currently identifies 17 Oregon children who are not listed as missing on the Oregon State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse website. Although more than a dozen international police agencies were involved in recovering the Marenco child, he never appeared on the OSP list.
The recovery of the Marenco child required the cooperation of courts in Washington County and in New Zealand, and “The following agencies/organizations have assisted the Beaverton Police Department with the Marenco case: Interpol, US Department of State, US Customs and Border Protection, US Marshals Service, US Federal Air Marshals Service, US DHS-ICE Homeland Security Investigations , National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Washington County District Attorney's Office, Washington County Sheriff's Office, Forest Grove Police Department, Government Agencies in New Zealand, Australia and Canada , San Francisco Police Department , San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.”
International abductions are on the rise due to corresponding increases in international marriages and child-producing relationships, and subsequent divorces and breakups. The convenience of international travel also plays a role, as do religious and cultural differences between the couples.
The media is rarely interested in reporting parental and family abductions, largely because law enforcement rarely acts, and there is so much else going on to fill the newscast or the page. After a day or two, a parental abduction story is old news if it was ever news at all. The family is on its own.
In fact, the only child to make the OSP list in the past five years is Kyron Horman. The Horman case also illustrates how difficult and painful child kidnappings are to resolve. The focus needs to be on prevention and deterrence.
The discrepancies in the lists of missing kids indicates that the Oregon State Police is not involved in looking for any of them, and also illustrates how easily a parentally-abducted child can slip through the cracks.
The fact that so many agencies were involved in recovering the child from New Zealand demonstrates how difficult it is to recover a child abducted to a foreign nation, even if both nations speak English and have similar court systems.
These facts, and the finding by the 2004 Oregon Senate President’s Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions that child abduction by any person is child abuse, point to the need to enact policies that discourage people from abducting their own children, or a family member’s children, or through a church-sponsored shunning/abduction, in the first place.
For the purposes of marking National Missing Children’s Day in Oregon, why don’t we take a look at those 17 Oregon kids who are missing enough to be listed on the National Center’s website, but not missing enough to be listed by our own Oregon State Police.
What does a missing kid have to do to get some attention from the Oregon State Police?