HOW TO HELP THE SEARCHING FAMILY
The following is a list for the Family Liaison of areas where the searching family may require some support during the search for their missing child. It is always important to make certain that assistance is offered and not imposed. A downloadable checklist is provided that can be used as a tool to ensure the daily needs of the searching family are being taken care of. The coordination of this type of support is important and the utilization of a Family Liaison will help in the organization process.
The Family Liaison will be in a very sensitive position. Depending on the case, the Family Liaison will need to maintain appropriate boundaries with the searching family. It is important that the Family Liaison is able to take care of themselves, get enough sleep, and get some distance when needed.
Offer to have a volunteer in the searching family’s home to answer phones and answer the door at all times. If the searching family prefers to manage this on their own, encourage them to establish a visitor and phone log, if this has not already been established by the police. If not, ensure that the volunteer responsible for this role keeps a log of all contacts, serving as a buffer between the searching family and the public.
Help the searching family set up a new cell phone with a brand new phone number. One member of the immediate family should have a new cell phone for which only vital stakeholders have the number. These stakeholders should include the police, the Family Liaison and other immediate family members. This will enable the family to focus on calls that are vitally important and allow the volunteers to take care of all other calls.
Establish an Internet plan. The Internet can provide people the space to express their feelings, opinions or theories regarding a missing child case. This can become very problematic for the searching family as Internet forums can get out of control. Have a volunteer (either one of the family volunteers or a volunteer of the Public Awareness Coordinator) be responsible for reviewing Internet forums for relevant information and for screening rumours.
Screen incoming mail for the searching family if they request you to do so. Be on guard for inappropriate letters and gifts. Pass these items on to the police.
If there are other children living in the home, arrangements will need to be made to ensure that they are cared for and kept occupied. Depending on the age of the children, they may benefit from speaking with a child counsellor to help them better understand what is happening. The daily activities of these children will need to be maintained, such as:
Help the searching parent find ways to spend time with their other children and/or help provide or arrange for alternative care.
Household needs will also have to be maintained. Some searching families might find the distraction of taking care of these needs helpful; however, offers of support should be made and revisited from time to time.
Bills will continue to come in and will need to be paid.
Groceries will need to be bought and transported.
Meals will need to be prepared.
Housekeeping and outdoor yard work will need to be done.
If the searching family has pets, you may want to inquire with the searching family about any support they may need in caring for them.
If well-wishers want to check in or provide food, take their names and phone numbers and forward the information on to the searching family. Run the food into the house, and give the individuals’ information to the Resources Coordinator.
If the media is coming to the searching family’s home, stop them and direct them to the Public Awareness Coordinator.
The media can be relentless. If you are involved in a high profile case, the media will most likely become an ever present feature for the searching family. If the media becomes too overwhelming, enlist a number of volunteers (as many as needed) to form a roadblock of sorts to protect the searching family. The Public Awareness Coordinator may wish to be part of the roadblock, or volunteers can simply repeat that all media inquiries should be directed to the Public Awareness Coordinator. The most important goal in this type of situation is to protect the searching family and their privacy.
In order to better organize visitors, establish “visiting hours,” a timeframe in which the searching family feels they are able to accept visitors.
The parents of the missing child will also have work responsibilities and may or may not be able to attend to these duties. Inquiries can be made as to whether or not any community support in this area would be beneficial. If a parent is self-employed, there may be community members who can assist in managing their responsibilities. If a parent has an employer, there may be the possibility of putting plans in to place to ensure that they may return to their position when they feel able.
Consideration should be given to how the extended family may be supported by the community as well. Communication with extended family members should be directed by the searching family, but can be delegated to a volunteer. Also depending on the circumstance, extended family members may arrive to support the search and may require accommodations. This can be coordinated along with the Resources Coordinator.