This is really great news for one searching mom, but the story does not stop with finding her children.
Monday, June 7, 2010
A Southern California mother whose two children were reported missing 15 years ago has been able to find them — using Facebook.
The mom is not being identified. But authorities say the children's father, Faustino Utreta left with the children in 1995 — when they were ages 2 and 3. A district attorney for San Bernadino, California says the mom found her daughter's Facebook profile after searching the social networking site in March.
An official says the two children — a 17-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy — are now in the custody of the state of Florida. For now, the two teenagers are being cared for by a non-relative in Florida with whom the pair have an existing relationship.
The father has been charged with kidnapping and with violating child custody orders.
We have found that social media is an excellent way for parents to search for their missing children, especially children who have run away. Our case manager (Millie Ives) has closed a number of cases, old and new, by looking for the missing children on Facebook.
Many missing kids neglect their online data footprint, and leave their accounts open to the public, and post freely about where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. We wish that more kids would take safety precautions with their personal data, but if that information is available to help their parents locate them, we will use it to help bring them home safe. We know for sure, that those who prey on kids do not hesitate to use this information to harm them, and we want to get them home safely before that happens.
We have also helped parents find missing kids by reminding them that if they are paying for their child’s phone, they can have the service provider locate the phone. If there is a missing person’s report on the child, the police can be tipped off to their location if necessary.
We have not had any cases of reunifications of long-time missing through social media as of yet, but one thing to remember about this particular case, is that these children will likely be reunited with a mother that they have no memories of, and no relationship with.
The whole family will need lots of professional help and support to build healthy and sustainable relationships. It is a shame that the children were denied contact with and knowledge of their mother and their relatives in their mother’s family for so long. This sort of situation can cause difficulties for children that they may not even recognize or understand until many years in the future.
But at least these young people now have the choice to get to know their mother and work to make up for all that lost time. We wish them the best for their futures, and hope for all the missing to come home.