It’s been nearly two weeks since a 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley vanished from her neighbor. Her family is convinced that national media attention would elevate the search. Her grandmother, Shirley Johnson, and aunt were finally on CNN where she was questioned about Jhessye’s mother (who was released from prison last year). Defending her daughter, Mrs. Johnson asked many questions of her own about how and who gets media attention.
Now, Mrs. Johnson has national media attention but, the story is not about five-year-old Jhessye. It’s about the media defending its right to focus on which missing kid they want. You see, the stories that are the most bizarre and sensational are reported. “That’s what people are interested in.”
Have we really become a society that thinks of missing children as just another news story that gives us goose bumps?
I went to the U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Justice Programs website where I read:
The AMBER Alert™ Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.
Alerts are not automatic. The criteria is complicated— Law Enforcement must confirm there is an abduction. The plans require a child be at risk for serious bodily harm or death before an alert can be issued. There must be enough information to believe that an immediate broadcast to the public will enhance the efforts of law enforcement to locate the child and apprehend the suspect. The age of the child is not consistent from state to state; some plans specify 10, some 12, some 14, 15, and 16.
None of this feels like safety for children that are missing. How do we fix this?
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship.