Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Age progression tech to help find missing kids

Published:Monday | June 13, 2016 | 6:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

The trauma and pain that come with missing children in Jamaica could soon be alleviated, with the country set to benefit from a Russia-based age-progression technology that will track the physical features of children who have gone missing for more than a year.

Betty-Ann Blaine, co-founder of Hear the Children's Cry, told The Gleaner that the intervention has come at a time when Jamaica still has 20 per cent of its missing children still unaccounted for after a year or longer.

As such, Blaine believes the technology will go a far way in aiding the security forces, especially, to investigate cases more efficiently.

"So far, 85 per cent of children who go missing return in a short period of time. However, there is another 15 per cent who are still unaccounted for, and at Hear the Children's Cry, that is a worrying trend," she said.

"Through the Global Missing Children Network (GMCN), which we are a part of, we were able to work with the Network's Russian partner named Nepusti to request the age-progression technology," she said.

"Hear the Children's Cry is working alongside the police in Jamaica and the parents through the GMCN to submit the photos to the company to be processed," Blaine explained.

She added: "The point is, for example, a child who went missing at 10 (years old) and eight years later still can't be found, once that child is alive, there's a high possibility that their features will change, and that's where this technology comes in."

The children's advocate said there are a number of families that have been negatively affected by the long-standing issue.

TAKE FAMILY LIFE SERIOUSLY

She urged Jamaicans to take family life seriously, indicating that conflicts in the home continued to be a huge factor, which results in children running away.

"Parents will be an integral part of this process. From our interviews with parents of long-term missing children, it is very traumatic. They often say to us, 'It better mi know if dem dead'," she said.

"Parents can't sleep; they have nightmares; they just don't know, and we try to give them hope. One of the tragedies about this problem of missing children is its impact on siblings in the family, particularly if the child who is missing has left younger siblings at home."

She added: "We want to encourage those families with children who have gone missing for a year or more to get in touch with us (Hear the Children's Cry). We want to hear from you. We also urge persons to fix families."

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com