Monday, April 8, 2013
Help Me Howard: Runaway Child
Your child disappears, runs away from home. It has to be devastating, and it's what one family is facing. Making it worse, they say no one seems to be able to help them, so legally, do police have to look for your child if they run away? It's why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Mildred Bacon: "I have eight kids. I birthed eight kids."
The children kept Mildred and her husband busy. Then when their youngest girls were teenagers, Mildred got a call about a relative.
Mildred Bacon: "I got a call that Christee, my great-niece Christee, had been left in the hospital. Her parents where nowhere to be found."
Little Christee's parents could not take care of her. Mildred and her husband took her in, and a year later she officially became their child.
Mildred Bacon:: "And we did, we adopted Christee by the time she was a year old, but we have had her since she was three months old."
A loving home with caring parents. Christee was wonderful. Then when she turned 12, she shocked the family.
Mildred Bacon: "And she had walked away from the house and she was gone for six hours or more."
That was the first time Christie ran away. Then she started doing it...over and over.
Mildred Bacon: "If she got upset or we didn't even know she was upset she would just leave."
Each time Christee ran away the police were called. Each time the family went out looking for her.
Mildred Bacon: "My children were reacting well, 'Mom what happened? What do you mean she's missing?' They came down from Atlanta. My whole family walked the streets looking for Christee."
Eventually -- days, weeks later -- each time Christee would come home, once telling them she stayed in an abandoned house and swept a barber shop for money.
Mildred Bacon: "And we asked the guy, and he said, 'Yeah, she come in every time," and he'd have her sweep the shop and he would give her $5 or $10."
Christee wouldn't tell her family why she ran away. She was tested for drugs. There were no traces.
Christee met with a psychologist and a school counselor to see if they could get through to her.
Mildred Bacon: "Her attitude had improved. All of a sudden my husband took her to school, put her off in front of the school, and we have not seen her since."
That was two months ago. Mildred called the police again. Clearly they were tired of hearing from her about Christee.
Mildred Bacon: "He said, 'Well, you haven't fixed your daughter yet. What do you expect us to do?'"
Mildred was devastated. Her family can't find Christee, leaving Mildred with just memories and her imagination.
Mildred Bacon: "That somebody killed her."
No one seems to know why Christee runs away, and Mildred is stunned that no one seems to want to help find her runaway daughter.
Mildred Bacon: "Does the police have a responsibility that once they know something to try at least to follow up on it?"
Well, Howard, I think I know the answer, but legally, do police have to look for a child that has a history of running away?
Howard Finkelstein: "No, they do not have to look, but they must take a report and immediately notify the officers on duty of the missing child. Then within two hours, they must transmit that report to the National Crime Information Center so that any police officers in America will see it if they come in contact with the missing child."
First of all, the police told us they never asked Mildred if she had fixed her daughter.
Sherry Friedlinder, Achildismissing.org: "And we been doing this for 16 years. We are nationwide."
Then we spoke to the founder of A Child Is Missing, based in Broward, which calls every phone number listed within a quarter of a mile after they get a report of a missing child or elderly person.
Sherry Friedlinder: "You can't run to 1,000 apartments in 60 seconds to find a missing person. It goes to landlines and cell phones, and we encourage people to go up to our website at achildismissing.org and enter their cell phone numbers."
Mildred has done everything she can do. Now she can only sit and wait.
Mildred Bacon: "Christee, I love you, we love you, we want you. You can always come home. There's nothing you can do to make us stop loving you, nothing, and I always tell her we will work it out."
If you know where Christee is, please call her parents or the Help Me Howard line so they will at least know she is alive and doing OK.
Now, if your child is missing and a police agency won't cooperate, call the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Missing Endangered Persons number. Also, a lot of times kids come back home. If they do, tell the police so they can take them out of the missing children database.
With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida Missing Endangered Persons: