Fri, Aug 06, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Public requested to help find lost kids

FAMILY RELATIONS Noting the growing trends of runaway children and family abductions, child welfare groups urged better parent-child understanding

By Evelyn Shih  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Chou Han-chang (周漢章) would like to hear from his son. Thirteen-year-old Chao-wei (周兆威) left home on July 1 and disappeared without a trace. Every attempt to contact the boy -- even in the virtual world of Heaven, his favorite online game -- has been in vain.

With this Sunday's Father's Day nearing, the Child Welfare League Foundation and the Children's Bureau yesterday called on all citizens to help re-establish contact between lost teenagers like Chou and their grieving parents.

They also urged married couples to resolve differences calmly to avoid cases of "family abduction" -- when one spouse disappears with the child, leaving the other without any contact information.

Teenage runaways and family abduction cases are both unfortunate and growing trends, the foundation's executive director Alicia Wang (王育敏) said at a press conference yesterday.

A report from the foundation showed that 93 percent of abductors are wives, and 60 percent of that number are foreign brides. A growing population, foreign brides tend to fear losing custody of their children in a local court decision. They feel at a disadvantage without working permits, Wang said.

The report also said that a growing percentage of missing children are teenagers who run away from home, as opposed to younger children who are abducted.

"Because parents are spending less and less time with their children, problems in the parent-child relationship that could be easily resolved are not being dealt with in time," Wang said. According to the foundation's figures, 54.2 percent of parents who are seeking lost children are looking for teens 12-18 years old.

Of the missing teens, 62 percent left home of their own volition. An additional 8.6 percent ran away after meeting people on the Internet. "When the family circle is loose, teens are easily drawn out of the home by friends or other outside forces," Wang said.

Because parents increasingly rely on hired help or relatives to take care of their children, parent-child communication and mutual understanding is often poor during a crucial time of development, she added. Children's Bureau chief Huang Bi-hsia (黃碧霞) encouraged parents to prevent family tragedy by spending time with their children and "chatting without preaching."

She urged teens to contact their parents, even if they were not ready to go home just yet. "Please find it in your heart to let your parents know about your situation," she said. Huang also asked friends of runaways to help persuade them to re-establish contact.

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