The past few weeks in Iowa have been very difficult for parents. Reports are being shared across social media platforms on a daily basis of missing people, the majority ages of 13-20.
As of July 27, 41 teens have been listed missing in Iowa since July 1.
Our state officials are assuring the public that this number is not higher than usual. State officials state there is nothing abnormal happening.
As a mom, I find this hard to believe.
Conversations have been taking place warning children of the very real dangers of communicating with people on social media that are not known in real life.
Conversations are being had about being aware of your surroundings at all times.
Conversations about how some people, some very bad people, even use children as distractions. There have been reports of a random child approaching doors, knocking, and asking the children inside to help with a problem. When the children in the house refuse to come outside, the young child will then leave in a vehicle with unidentified adults.
My children have been instructed to not answer the door. For anyone, even children. Only blood relatives get the door answered, and most of them have their own keys.
These are scary times we are living in.
I myself have always subscribed to the “free-range” method of parenting. I often encourage my kids to go out into the neighborhood and find an adventure. If an adventure cannot be found, then they are encouraged to create one.
They have spent countless hours riding bikes, playing basketball in the driveway, holding lemonade stands in the front yard, and so on.
As a mom, I have a very hard time reconciling how I tend to parent with the current climate across the state.
I have always believed that encouraging them to navigate the neighborhood that they live in on their own builds a sense of independence and confidence in themselves as they navigate their world.
How do we rationalize that logic with the need for them to be safe? What balance do we reach, between protecting them from the horrible things that happen in the world and equipping them to manage that world?
The challenge parents all over the state are dealing with, is how much is the right amount of information to share with our children? I want to provide them with enough honest information to keep them safe. I also don’t want to scare them about the world that they live in.
What is that balance?
I want to believe the state. I want to trust the authorities, to feel that my kids are safe in their own neighborhood.
The reporter in me questions. I have so many questions.
Like so many issues in life, there are no easy answers.
When looking at a map, the majority of the reported missing cases occur in town along major interstates. These interstates are known to be used by individuals and groups participating in human trafficking. This is terrifying.
Yes, a percentage of these juveniles may be runaways and may return home. Even if that is the case, I cannot think of a more vulnerable population than that of the teenage runaway.
As parents, we need to be ever vigilant. Whether the number is “consistent” with previous years or higher, 40 juveniles missing in our state in one month is too many.
We must look out for our children. We must look out for our neighbor’s children. We must be willing to look out for the kid that walks past our house whose name we do not know.
As the saying goes, “if you see something, say something.”