Florida officials providing 250,000 free child-ID kits
If the worst-case scenario ever happens, Florida officials want parents to be ready. On the heels of more than 25,000 incidents of missing children reported to authorities in 2022, the state will be giving free identification kits to parents. The goal is to make it easier for parents to collect identifying information on cards that can be kept at home if they are ever needed. About 250,000 kits will be provided to all public, private, and charter schools for the parents of kindergarten students.
Colorado operation recovers 11 high-risk missing kids
“Operation Lost and Found” has located nearly a dozen endangered missing children throughout the Denver metro area. A two-week operation by the Aurora Police Department, the U.S. Marshals, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children helped find the children, who ranged in age for 12 to 17. Authorities said the children were “some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area, based on factors such as child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sex abuse, physical abuse and medical or mental health conditions.”
Navajo Nation unveils new missing persons guidelines that emphasize empathy
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and First Lady Phefelia Nez have issued an executive order laying out new guidelines for missing persons cases that will emphasize being more empathetic to victims and their families. “Many families know the personal heartbreak and trauma of missing loved ones in the Navajo Nation and throughout Indian Country. Multiple jurisdiction systems have historically failed the victims and their families,” said President Nez. The new guidelines will mandate that any missing persons case should immediately involve the victim’s family, relatives, and community.
Genetic testing company helps family of ‘Baby Melissa’ find her after 51 years
On August 23, 1971, 1-year-old Melissa Highsmith of Fort Worth was kidnapped by a woman posing as a babysitter. Her family searched for in vain for her over five decades, and never gave up. Encouraged by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the family used the genetic-testing company 23andMe—and Jeffrie Highsmith discovered a grandchild he didn’t know he had. Highsmith then found a Facebook account likely connected to his long-lost daughter, who went by “Melanie Walden.” And of all places, she lived in Fort Worth, where her family still resided. When Highsmith contacted Melanie/Melissa, he shared his (and her) story, but Walden, 53, thought he was trying to scam her. Additional genetic testing confirmed that she was indeed “Baby Melissa.” During the family’s reunion, they learned of Walden’s abusive childhood. “I finally have a mother and father who want me,” Walden said. She has since changed her name back to Melissa Highsmith.