I’ve seen a couple of ‘Missing Child’ posts on Facebook this week and I wanted to explain why I won’t be sharing them. They are always heart wrenching pleas for help. Some of them, I have no doubt, are genuine. I know this as a quick search on Google and I find that the police are also concerned for their whereabouts and are actively searching for them with the support of authorised charities and agencies. However, there are some that are not what they seem*.
Some are simply a hoax and some of them are not ‘missing’ at all. The child may have been adopted due to the risk of significant harm; they may be in hiding with their other parent as a result of serious domestic violence within the home; or the whole family may be in police protection and the concerned ‘father’ is not who he claims to be. Furthermore, ‘missing adults’ may wish for their location to remain anonymous, and they do have that right which we must respect. As virtual strangers we do not know the circumstances of their ‘disappearance’ and we should trust in the expertise of professionals to get the full picture.
In October 2013, there was a case in Sweden where a father published a photo of his missing children and asked for help in finding them. Thousands of people helped by sharing the post and finally one person recognised the children and let him know where to find them. What Facebook users weren't aware of was that the mother and her children were living under protection and with a new identity after leaving the father. When he found them they were forced to move again, but the consequences could have been much worse.
Jayne has also been in touch to say that she "know[s] of a Father who'd been rehomed with his children and the Mother found her children who were in protective custody from her using facebook. Really good to make people aware!!".
In other cases here in the UK, the birth parents of adopted children are using Facebook and other social networking sites to track down their children, flouting the usual controls and safeguards. Incidents are becoming more and more common and many local authorities are now advising adoptive parents not to include photographs in their annual letters, in case these are posted online in an attempt to trace the child.
F.m has said: "We have 3 children who are adopted, and we had this happen. We had sent the birth family photos with the letter of our girls as bridesmaids. They were then posted on Facebook as 'abducted, please help us find them', very scary indeed. They were removed from their birth family for very good reason, and must be protected from them for life. Social media is dangerous and we live in fear of someone posting something which helps birth family find them."
So, what can you do to help?
Thank you for all the likes and shares on this post. Please take a look at the rest of my blog. You can also follow me on facebook and twitter.
* This post is not referring to genuine appeals for information by the police or any authorised charity acting on their behalf.
25/6/2015 07:02:43 am
I agree with everything you said. I 'felt' something wrong with these posts and did not forward any on. You have articulated my feelings for me. Good on you.
25/6/2015 02:57:27 pm
I agree....I'll only share missing persons posts that the police have issued not some random ones.
25/6/2015 03:54:23 pm
Just so you know max I always get my links direct from the police :-)
26/6/2015 01:31:34 am
26/6/2015 03:53:51 am
Unfortunately you do see some dubious ones on Facebook, however there is "Child Rescue Alert is the responsibility of CEOP, a command of the National Crime Agency (NCA). It is managed in partnership with the charity, Missing People, which is responsible for its promotion and operation, and also with Groupcall which provides the subscription website and the underlying alerting software" http://childrescuealert.org.uk/
26/6/2015 04:15:26 am
I too am concerned about 'sharing' these posts and believe the above is a good compromise.
26/6/2015 05:22:58 am
this made me think, I used to share ,but I wont any more, unless the police say its ok
Barefoot Social Work
26/6/2015 06:06:26 am
Thank you for your comment. It's important to note that the police often rely upon help from the public in missing person cases and social media can play a role in that.
26/6/2015 06:08:50 am
I think this should also apply to missing pets, always contact the police first with any information, not everything you read online is genuine. I also wouldn't share a post which has a photo of someone and accuses them of a crime with no police evidence to back it up, for example posts such as 'have you seen these people, they are stealing dogs in this area' - really, are they? If so, make the police aware so they can distribute the genuine facts, otherwise someone might go out and hurt these people, who may be innocent!
21/7/2015 07:40:08 am
police don't need to know about missing pets... come on now, ,like they don't have enough to do...
24/7/2015 01:40:07 am
Actually, here in San Francisco, where in the last few months we have had some horrifying crimes committed against animals, the police and Animal Care and Control work together to make sure that such claims are truthful and above-board. And I feel honored by the service ACC does to protect our pets and other animals. They are truly professionals.
7/2/2016 12:19:19 pm
After seeing this, I would be wary about pets too. If somebody had fled abuse, and taken a distinctive pet with them, that pet could be a way of tracking them down.
21/7/2015 04:27:32 pm
Totally agree with you!
Hello, Polly here from the charity Missing People.
Barefoot Social Work
28/6/2015 12:55:36 am
Hi Polly. Thank you for reading and sharing information about your charity.
5/7/2015 10:37:45 am
I really think your charity should hang its head in shame, come on lets get real, having Kate Mccann on board is not and never will be a good thing for your organisation, a mother who left three young children on their own in an apartment while she went off socialising which in turn led to one of those children going missing never to be seen since, how can you justify her involvement? Sadly as long as she is involved your charity can have no credibility whatsoever.
6/7/2015 01:29:03 pm
Every year, parents leave their children alone while on holiday, thinking they are safe, especially as the McCaans were in sight of the villa. How many children go missing on crowded beaches when the parent looks away for a couple of seconds. Or busy supermarkets and shopping malls where children have been taken from but you do not hear about their parents who thought their kids were safe and their children end up dead or never found. It's only because Kate & Gerry have done everything possible to find Madelleine and still do, keeping it high profile. There must be many charities that have no credibility according to your own definition. Why don't you mention them? You say that because Kate is involved the charity has no credibility whatsover. That is your opinion. I think it is good that Kate is involved. Who knows what it is like to have a child go missing more than her? I will always support Kate and Gerry along with all parents who have lost children but do what they can to help others find their children as well. In the UK a child goes missing every 3 minutes, that's an awful lot of parents who thought their children were safe and an awful lot of charities that you give no credibility to.
22/7/2015 08:00:00 pm
Wow. You certainly like to judge people harshly. Dismissing an entire organization because you disagree with the parenting of one person who is on the board is really rational (sarcasm). Are you one of those parents who is perfect and has never done anything that you regret?
25/9/2015 05:27:43 am
I believe Kate sat in a garden oposite the flat where her children were. I've done that.
21/7/2015 08:08:45 am
Surely it's not the sharing but the response that is in question. If a missing person is spotted the response should always be via the police.
Barefoot Social Work
27/6/2015 11:31:56 am
Thanks John. I was motivated to write the post after I saw a couple of 'missing child' posts on Facebook last week. As a Social Worker specialising in children's safeguarding I see the dangers in sharing these without knowing the full facts of the case. I wanted to share these concerns with others and use my blog as an awareness raising tool.
28/6/2015 04:07:59 am
Thanks for the sound advice, but worth noting that its not just fathers that can be abusive but mothers too - please don't continue to spread this type of stereotype.
Barefoot Social Work
28/6/2015 04:26:01 am
Hi John. Thank you for your comment. You are quite right that women are also the perpetrators of domestic violence and I have worked with many families where this has sadly been the case. This is why, you will note, I said 'they may be in hiding with the other *parent* as a result of domestic violence'. It was simply a fact of the case in Sweden that the victim was the mother and children.
28/6/2015 05:40:02 am
Thank you for the reply and of course you're right - re-reading my comment I came across a bit too strong and apologise for that.
22/7/2015 11:59:07 pm
The article states that a father and his children were tracked down by the mother ... so it's not one sided, as you claim.
Barefoot Social Work
23/7/2015 06:38:10 am
Hi Doug. Thank you for reading my blog.
28/6/2015 06:17:43 am
I research everything before I share. I'm also dubious about lost holiday photos and the ilk, they could be the same type of thing.
28/6/2015 06:23:33 am
It never occurred to me that someone would use a post like this to find a vulnerable person. Thank you for bringing it to my attention I would be devastated to think I could have helped them I will definitely share this post.
28/6/2015 04:45:04 pm
an angle that I have never considered before I shall be more circumspect in sharing pleas in the future Thank you for this insight.
28/6/2015 05:09:30 pm
Recently a child was not missing but had actually been abducted and assaulted. Fb attention has ensured there is now no anonymity for this child in the forthcoming court case. Misguided good intentions.
28/6/2015 06:38:22 pm
Can I ask whats wrong with the birth parents trying to find their child that was adopted? I think its great that adoption is becoming more open and the adoptive parents can incoporate the birth parents into a part of their childs life. The biological parents and the adoptive parents can collaborate on an openness agreement and it helps lessen the grieving for all parties as well as encourages a stronger sense of identity for the child. The biological parents have experienced a loss and by being a part of their child life (to what extent can differ) can help with the healing process. It is a shame when not all parties can maintain the openness agreement and could empathize that they would want to find the child to maintain contact. Though I believe spreading their picture over social media may not be the best option but desperation can call for some extreme measures.
Barefoot Social Work
29/6/2015 03:10:13 am
Hi Tina. Thank you for your comments.
29/6/2015 10:42:06 am
Thank you for your response.
29/6/2015 03:11:24 am
If the adopted child is now an adult then the birth parents can go through the official channels to let the adopted person know they wish to make contact.
Hi Rhi, I was fostered for years so I have some idea of what these arrangements are like for children. I agree with you that the child should have a say and not the adults, it is a crying shame that kids are forced to wait until they are 18 to make contact or find them, when they may have wanted contact when they were aged 12 (for example). Not all situations are exactly the same, so no two children are the same. If a child desires to find their own family they should be encouraged to do so unless they were abused and that is the reason they were removed.
Barefoot Social Work
29/6/2015 11:42:38 am
Tina, I understand that some parents may find it hard accepting giving up a child for adoption, but when the adoption process took place, they no longer have rights as their parent. They gave up those rights when they gave up the child. So no I don't agree that a biological parent should have some sort of open access. At what point is that in the Childs best interest? But if the child ,when old enough, wants to search for its birth parents then that's different. But I don't agree with a birth parent trying to find the child.
21/7/2015 07:28:14 am
As a Adopted person i Would be very upset if the first contact from my birth parents was on face book they should go through corect channels and let me have time to see how i feel with out all of face book knowing about it plus as some one else put in some children were adopted to save them fro the birth family its not all happy familys
21/7/2015 01:30:54 pm
it is not always the case that both sets of parents can sort out things, not all children who are adopted are "given up" some are removed as a place of safety and it is not in the interest of the child to have contact. once the child is 18 they are free to do as they wish and find the parent then. There is also the problem with children who might be in Foster care due to a parent being unable to look after them. children's photos should never be shared by strangers and posted everywhere!!!
26/7/2015 08:46:26 am
In the UK, many adoptions are 'forced' or non-consensual and there are very strict contact arrangements in place. Having worked in social care also know of many fostered teens who return to very dangerous birth parents when they run away. To share and potentially locate some young people puts them at risk of significant emotional and physical harm. Many children are removed for their own protection, not so they/their personal circumstances can be splashed all over random social media at a later date. That a birth parent would choose to do so (to my mind) upholds some of the concerns that may exist for their removal (selfishness, lack of empathy, lack of concern for child's emotional health). At 18, the child is considered an adult and can then make arrangements to seek their birth parents/siblings if desired. Before that, it is not a call to be made by well-meaning but ill-informed members of the public.
27/7/2015 05:58:37 am
I have two adopted kids. I maintain letterbox contact with their birth parents, as is very common these days. If there is no letterbox contact that usually means the circumstances of the child's adoption were so negative that it is felt that there should be no contact at all. My kids were damaged to some extent by their birth parents, but we still keep contact. However I would be horrified if the parents tried to make direct contact. Not out of fear of losing my kids, but out of fear that the kids, who are already to some extent disturbed by their experiences, should be subject to further distress and trauma. These days it is normal for social services to keep records of adopted kids, so if the birth parents wish to get in touch they can do it that way, rather than directly. Kids need protection, and allowing possibly violent or abusive parents to get in touch or even trace these kids is not protection. The kids rights MUST come first.
29/6/2015 01:13:31 am
Hi, I have thought this myself so many times and have only shared if the police have put on the post.....great you are making people aware, well done.
Great post. Never really considered these aspects before. Mostly I don't share these posts because if a kid is missing in my area it'll be on the local news and the BBC because it's a very rural area. I share those news posts over random ones a facebook user has put together.
29/6/2015 05:50:30 am
I always google the details before considering sharing. Often I find that the child was found months or even years ago - not sure why those are being shared. I usually comment with a relevant link in that case.
j g collins
29/6/2015 01:44:15 pm
Generally, don't believe anything you read on social media. Check everything before you re-post it. Snopes (though not infallible, and sometimes politically biased) is a good place to start. Believing a lie is worse than being ignorant.
29/6/2015 03:17:48 pm
Well said! felt this way for a long time but didn't know how to put it in words and you've nailed it.....Thank you
My daughter went missing for 4 days and nights and was found 6 hours our post was shared on social media. What a shame you are going to stop people sharing when most posts are genuine and is proven to be the police's greatest weapon in finding them. Yes, be cautious but do share! My young daughter suffers from depression terribly and I don't think she'd be with us now if she hadn't been found quickly. I'll forever be grateful to everyone who shared on Facebook and who helped to bring my baby home
Barefoot Social Work
5/7/2015 02:45:11 am
Hi HJ. I'm sorry to hear about your daughter. I hope she's ok. This post is not about genuine appeals for information by the police (or an authorised charity acting on their behalf). I'm not saying don't share. I'm simple saying that people should check the authenticity of a missing post first.
Hi Hj, Iam so glad you found your daughter. The big problem with verifying stories with the Police is that they make you wait 24hrs before acting on anything, that is precious time wasted........your post of sharing your daughter's photo over 6 hours,proved fruitful. That is 18 hrs before the Police would have even started!!!! And you are correct that Social media is now the Police's greatest weapon! Not only that someone missing is not going to be on the police radar immediately so how would anyone verify who is really missing and who isn't?!?! We cannot afford to waste precious hours waiting for something to be verified, as you say your daughter may well not be with you had you not shared her photo on Facebook. I agree with you: do share.
29/6/2015 07:47:18 pm
Thanks for this. Many things I would not have considered. I feel the need to add to the perception of "birth parents." It is true that many use Facebook to try to view their natural children. It is true that some adoptive parents prefer they not see photos or hear details about the children's lives. It is also true that many "open" adoptions which permit contact and/or a free exchange of information/pictures end up being "closed" by adoptive parents despite the initial agreement and through no action on the part of the natural parent. (I am an adoptee and communicate with many other adoptees and natural parents.) Many times an agreement is made to send the natural mother updates and a few photos each year- and many moms receive these with a happy heart and do not seek more info or contact. But the pictures dwindle and contact fades away after the first couple of years. Many moms are heartbroken by this and no longer have the comfort of knowing their children are safe and being loved. And some of them turn to social media to try to gain ANY bit of info or, if they are lucky, a photo. In most cases, unless the child is actually a legal adult of age 18 or older, actual contact is not pursued. The stopping of promised updates and photos by adoptive parents happens MORE often than natural parents with bad intentions seeking their children on Facebook. I just felt the need to share that since lots of folks may not realize that. heart emoticon
30/6/2015 12:10:29 pm
Thanks for raising this. I have seen first hand the danger of social media being used to find a birth child who'd been adopted. Sexually abused as a very young child by parent, found in early teens via social media. Child believed all they were told by the parent, grooming is the word for what happened. They told their best friend when they planned to meet said parent. Luckily friend thought it a bit odd and told her mum, who spoke to police. Happy ending for adoptive parents and professionals but child needed lots of help to understand as she had no memory of the original abuse and she believed what she'd been told by her parent online. She also couldn't forgive her friend.
21/7/2015 04:06:17 am
We have 3 children who are adopted, and we had this happen. We had sent the birth family photos with the letter of our girls as bridesmaids. They were then posted on Facebook as 'abducted, please help us find them', very scary indeed. They were removed from their birth family for very good reason, and must be protected from them for life. Social media is dangerous and we live in fear of someone posting something which helps birth family find them.
21/7/2015 08:36:46 am
Whether the advice on sharing is good or not, I still find this article tremendously biased and misandrist.
21/7/2015 07:02:10 pm
And what about parents whose children are forcibly removed by twisted social services trying to meet sick adoption criteria? There are so many of these cases. I can't imagine what it must be like to have a child removed so someone can tick a quota box. I would 100% support any parent who was trying to get their child back outside of the sick and unfit social services/family court cartel.
Prof Andrew Melrose
22/7/2015 12:38:41 am
Every local authority has an LSCB - Local Safeguarding Children's Board and I encourage everyone to engage with it. All lay people (non social workers, school teachers etc) are encouraged to join with the professionals (social workers, teachers etc). Just google LSCB to find your local one.
22/7/2015 02:38:20 am
Thank you for posting this really important information. I only recently said to my partner that I feel really bad not sharing a post of a missing child but felt that there was something nor right about it because if there was we would have heard about it in the news. Even though I skipped it, it played on my conscious so your posting has confirmed my initial thoughts. Thank you I will share this.
22/7/2015 10:03:49 am
Yes, great article thank you. I know of a Father who'd been rehomed with his children and the Mother found her children who were in protective custody from her using facebook. Really good to make people aware!!
24/7/2015 04:56:32 pm
Thank you for this. Every time I see a plea for a missing birth family member or a missing / abducted child I feel torn... Of course I want to help genuine seekers.... I have shared your post with the hope that all on my 'friend' list take heed of its advice!
26/7/2015 07:40:46 am
I too am passionate about safeguarding children and work as a safeguarding officer within education. I totally agree with not sharing information over social media unless it has been checked out through the police first. We could be putting these vulnerable young people at further risk of harm.
30/9/2015 01:29:59 pm
I wonder if things would have been different if the internet would have been the searching tool it is today back in 1982 when my sister disappeared. Finally we had her missing person case changed to possible homicide and we do believe that she was killed, but as you pointed out, there have been good outcomes by using the internet. It's sad that there are also people who use it for their own goals which sometimes are NOT for the welfare of the person mentioned. Very informative.
8/2/2016 10:23:05 pm
Why can't I share this in any meaningful, simple way so that I can relay the information above so my friends may make their own decision on this issue?
23/5/2016 12:13:37 pm
An important point very well made
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I'm a Qualified Children's Social Worker with a passion for safeguarding and family support in the UK.