Here in Central Florida, news stations have been broadcasting reports of a local 11-year old from Brandon that has been missing since 5 a.m. on February 15th. Jenna Irmler was last seen in her home around 9 p.m. on the 14th, and was discovered missing the next morning. Sadly, she suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, which complicates the dilemma because she sometimes can struggle with social interactions, particularly those in a stressful or unfamiliar situation. Police are asking for any and all information regarding this case.
The situation with Jenna had us pondering missing children cases, and we had some tips and advice we’d like to share, so hopefully this type of situation can be avoided by your family.
- Prepare your children for the unexpected. Kidnapping, and even just getting lost, could take your child far outside of their comfort zone, and if they don’t know their own contact information, it could mean the difference in them getting home to you. From the age of about 3 or 4, children are capable of learning their address. Focus on the city and state even more than your street name and number, since that information is most pertinent.
- Teach your child simple self-defense. While we aren’t necessarily speaking of self-defense fighting practices (although those can be helpful for older children), self-defense is about keeping themselves safe, and keeping strangers who mean ill will far away. Tell your child to avoid speaking to, or interacting with, people they don’t know. If they feel uncomfortable from an adult, they need to know how to find a trusted adult they can get to, or a public service officer (policeman, fireman, store clerk, etc.). The best self-defense though is to teach them to yell hard, long, and loudly if anyone tries to hurt and/or take them.
- Learn to be on high alert when you are out in public. Kidnapping, child trafficking, etc. are on the rise, and while it can be hard to spot, if you feel like something is “off”, you can never go wrong with reporting it. Additionally, if you see a child who appears to be lost or in distress, keep in mind that autism, Asperger’s, and other social and behavioral disorders can be difficult to discern, especially if children are high-functioning. These kids might not be able to tell you what is wrong, where they came from, etc. Your best bet is, again, to report anything suspicious, and be supportive and helpful, but not scare them or traumatize them in any way.
We hope this information will help give you insight into protecting your children and family from the dreaded and feared “missing person” report. Our concern and well wishes go out to the family of the young Brandon girl as her family and friends search for her. Our hopes are that she will be found safe and returned promptly. No one expects for this type of case to occur in their family, nor do they expect marital disputes, custody issues, etc. No matter what the event, in legal matters throughout the greater Sarasota area, at Sessums Law Group when the unexpected comes your way, WE STAND FOR YOU!