November is Runaway Prevention Month
For the 8th consecutive year, the Missing Children’s Network is dedicating the entire month of November to raising awareness about the plight of runaway youth in our province and what families can do to prevent children from doing so.
Throughout the month, the Missing Children’s Network will post a number of safety tips on social media and will encourage supporters to like and share the information. As well, the organization will conduct safety workshops in dozens of schools in the province and will sensitize students about the dangers of running away, and provide them with alternatives.
The Missing Children’s Network recently launched SHINE (Self-esteem, Healthy relationships, Independence, No means No, Empowerment), a province–wide and bilingual prevention program tailored for students ages 10-13 years-old. In our sessions, we address issues that include sexual exploitation, setting boundaries, healthy relationships, recognizing adults that groom youth for exploitation, navigating safely in today’s wireless world and being a good digital citizen. At the end of every presentation, students receive a resource card that contains the coordinates of community organizations that they can turn to for support in times of need.
“Every year in Quebec, on average, 5,000 cases of runaway youth are reported to law enforcement. In the last 6 years, we have intervened in over 600 cases involving runaway youth and our experience has shown that one in every three runaways fall victim to sexual exploitation.” declared Pina Arcamone, Director General of the Missing Children’s Network. “Victims can be of any age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic background or religion. Exploiters target and prey on the vulnerability of young people and groom them by gaining their trust, showering them with affection and attention and promising a better and more glamourous life.”
One of the most important things parents can do to protect their child is to make their home a place of trust and support that fulfills the teen’s needs. Encourage teens to share any secrets that may leave them feeling uncomfortable or scared. Find daily opportunities to talk with your child and listen attentively to what he has to say. It is crucial that children feel that the significant adults in their lives accept them, care about them and would go out of their way to ensure that they are safe and well. Children with a healthy sense of self-esteem are less vulnerable to becoming victims of abduction, aggression or exploitation.
Open communication is key! Help make your children more aware by explaining the dangers of sex trafficking and by challenging myths and misconceptions that glamorize commercial sex. This includes having conversations with them about online safety and how traffickers use social networking sites and apps to mask, not only their appearance, but also their true intentions while recruiting new victims.
The Missing Children’s Network is a valuable resource to families and has published an array of safety documentation to help parents and guardians gain deeper insight on issues facing teens today and assist them in initiating difficult conversations with their children, particularly around sexual abuse and exploitation. Publications available for download include: Teens runaway: Signs, Prevention and What to Do if They Run”, and “Sexual Exploitation of Teens”.
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Heartfelt words of gratitude
An American woman wrote to us the morning of March 29th to thank us for the help that we provided her with 19 years-ago when she was reunited with her son. Her kind words were for our Senior Case Manager, Patrick Bergeron:
It was wonderful speaking with you today. When I think of you, I am filled with gratitude that you were there for me and Sam when we needed you most. Thank you for what you did for us and thank you for everything you do for missing children and their families. You are a giant among men.”
This kind of testimony motivates our team to continue its quest to reunite families with their children!Abby
Since I have been donating to your organization, I have been very lucky not to have lost any of my children and I now have 4 grandchildren! I will always continue to support this cause that is very dear to me. Losing a child for a mere 20 seconds is such a dreadful feeling, and I could never ever imagine feeling like this until my child was returned home. I wish that so many other parents could share the same blessing I have had. My heart goes out to everyone who has a missing child. Keep up the fantastic work Pina , please. You and your team are amazing!!Sandra Bolduc