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Finding the Missing Link between Missing Persons and Child Protection

Julie Clark is a Lecturer at Griffith University and has conducted research into missing persons and their families.  Julies research inspired The Disappearances Project.

Julie is this weeks Child Protection Warrior.  Here is a guest post by Julie, about Julie.

While it may seem a stretch for some, establishing a better response for missing people, their families and friends is strongly related to supporting families and child protection. The largest group of the 35,000 missing people each year are children and young people, mostly 13-17 year old young people, some of whom are or were in care. While most are located and missing only short periods the numbers suggest there is more we need to do to understand and prevent the need for young people to cope negotiating adolescence and difficult childhoods by going missing. Young women are the largest group under 18 years. For others the transition to adulthood is a struggle and more young men become long-term missing people in the years after adolescence. My research has been about siblings of missing people and they spoke about their troubled brothers and sisters, sometimes troubled by experiences of abuse, neglect or difficult family relationships. All those who went missing had struggled with mental health issues. These are the complex issues family support workers, across all professional backgrounds struggle with on a daily basis.

Why people should come to the Missing People: Issues and Implications Conference and TRAMP

The conference is a rare opportunity to come together as a community of people interested in people who have a troubled start to life and the issues around going missing as well as the support of those people left behind. They impact across the lifespan. The issues are complex and different for each group affected. It may be young people, mothers who have relinquished a child for adoption, people fleeing violence, a child abducted, an older person with dementia. Many families will have experienced the loss of someone going missing. This area of practice is under developed, there is so much we do not know and need to better understand to provide more informed and useful responses. We need to intervene early and effectively to avoid young people developing patterns of behaviour that will not be useful to them over the longer term. The police are expected to respond to episodes of going missing but there is little or no sense of a ‘continuum of care’ once the person is located. Rather than a raft of new services we need existing services to include an understanding of going missing in the work they are already doing. The conference will be a place for like minded people to discuss issues of importance to them with a view to influencing the agenda for the next 10 years.

The Disappearances Project was inspired by my research (I read this in a press release so it must be true!). It tells the story from the perspective of people who live with the experience of having a family member who is a long term missing person. It is 50 minutes of powerful theatre. It helps us to understand the cost of going missing from the lived experience of people who live with ‘missingness’ every day. TRAMP (Theatre Raising Awareness of Missing People) is the project title for the theatre production funded by Arts Qld and associated activities (it must be excellent because we were successful with funding even in these difficult times!). As part of TRAMP we invite people to make connections with other local community members interested in this issue and develop their understanding about the impact of someone going missing. People can come together when they attend the theatre productions in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Ayr and Cairns. There is a Q and A after each performance with both the actors and myself. Young people interested in using theatre to express themselves may really be interested in the opportunity to talk with two accomplished writers and performers. Bringing social issues to light through theatre is the mission of Version 1.0.

Agency and professional staff and community members are also invited to be part of a workshop in their local community ($30 for a 2 hour workshop. You can register online through Eventbrite) on one of the days the theatre is presenting in their location. See http://www.griffith.edu.au/health/school-human-services-social-work/partnerships-collaboration/tramp for more details or our facebook site www.facebook.com.au/theatreraisingawarenessofmissingpeople.

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