Missing Kids: How 2022′s numbers compare
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The majority of all missing persons cases are minors, and most of the time the child at the heart of a case is a kid who chose to run away. The Vermont Intelligence Center monitors all missing person cases until investigators take over. They said 359 juveniles were reported missing this year, and that the majority of them were runaways.
About 340 kids were reported missing each year in Vermont over the past five years, excluding 2020. Amber Alerts, which are only used in situations of child abduction, are uncommon in Vermont -- the last one was issued in 2016.
Ron LaFond of the Vermont Intelligence Center said 97% of juveniles reported missing in the last five years left of their own accord. inThe other 3% has to do with interference in the child’s custody among family members. “It’s been kind of consistent over the last five years -- numbers that we’re seeing -- knowing the only thing that fluctuates a little bit as the amount of time each person runs,” said LaFond.
LaFond says in 2021 and 2022, 17% of missing juvenile cases involved someone who had been reported missing more than one time in a calendar year. “Most of them have been located. Very few juveniles are still listed as missing. We usually find them within a day or two. Sometimes it goes a little bit longer, depending on the cases and all that, but we’re not having long periods of time where there are a lot of juveniles that are missing,” said LaFond.
According to the VIC website, there are seven juveniles still reported missing for more than 60 days, dating back to 1946. LaFond says there are no specific time thresholds to when to report a missing persons case. He says that sometimes reports are made when someone doesn’t return home or doesn’t go somewhere they’re expected.
With 97% of missing juvenile cases in the last five years stemming from runaway situations, we wanted to learn more about why some juveniles might choose to leave home. “There can be such a wide spectrum of things that contribute to kids and families getting in those spots,” said Dr. Andrew Rosenfeld, a child psychiatrist at the UVM Medical Center. He says some instances are one-time arguments or misunderstandings sometimes prompted by changes in family life. In other situations, a child might reach a point where they feel the only option to have safety or a connection is to leave. “Sometimes it becomes more common that the issues that drive runaway behavior are, in general, that the home isn’t feeling safe or supportive. But that doesn’t mean that the parents or caregivers aren’t trying to make it safe and supportive or even doing good job. So, sometimes it has to do with environment, sometimes it’s what’s going on internally.”
Rosenfeld says impulsive running away tends to be more common but a planned runaway could indicate a more chronic problem. “If a child tells you, shares an emotion with you or something that they’re going through, to consider that maybe a gift and to acknowledge it with gratitude. ‘Thank you for showing me how hard things are or how sad you are or how angry you are with me.’ Maybe even or with whomever that that means a lot to kids. Yeah, that they’ve trusted you with that and you’ve validated it,” he said.
There’s no threshold of time in Vermont to report a missing person. And if you or a loved one is struggling, you can call the 988 Vermont Mental Health emergency line.
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