'America's Most Wanted' Host John Walsh: Missing Hispanic, Black Children Don't Get Media Attention
During the '80s, the country was gripped by the inconceivable abduction and brutal murder of Adam Walsh, son of John Walsh, who many know today as the host and creator of "America's Most Wanted."
The passionate trailblazer went on to become the co-founder of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, host of CNN's "The Hunt," and inspired the nation with the passing of "The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act," which, in turn, led to "Code Adam," the AMBER Alert and the National Sex Offender Registry. However, the crusade still has a vital piece missing -- the media attention needed for missing Hispanic and black children, who are too often overlooked.
"I also learned one other thing that really bothers me, there is very little attention given to Hispanic and black missing children," Walsh stressed during a panel hosted by STARZ and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and moderated by Joy Behar, former co-host of "The View."
"Especially in the media," Behar added to Walsh's comments.
"The media ... and I have talked about it for years, on 'America's Most Wanted' we did so many Hispanic kids and black children that were stranger-abducted and victims of non-custodial parental abductions, which the Center does all of the time, which is most of the cases that they deal with," he said.
"What the media loves is the blond, little JonBenét Ramsey, the Adam Walsh, the Elizabeth Smart, but Hispanic and black kids just don't seem to get the attention from the media they deserve, and it's really sad," Walsh said.
"It's pathetic and it's racist," Behar added in disgust.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's special analysis unit, missing children nationwide intaked at NCMEC between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2013, included Hispanic children: 8,326 or 14.5 percent and black children: 19,532 or 33.9 percent. (*The information in this report does not reflect all cases of missing or abducted children, only those reported to NCMEC, which will assist in any missing child case at the request of law enforcement.)
This week, the powerful panel event, which took place at the Soho House in New York, also marked the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's 30th anniversary. In addition, the event was held in support of STARZ' eight-part series thriller "The Missing" (which airs on Saturdays at 9pm ET/PT), which tells the compelling and heart-breaking story of what happens to one family whose son goes missing.
"There are a lot of parallels to the show," said Walsh, who discussed many families' need for closure, but are faced with a grim reality.
"There is no closure. I'll always be a parent of a murder child," he said. "So when they solved Adam's case, did it sort of end a chapter, yes. For our children that had been born since then and lived in that shadow, they felt good, we felt good that we found out who killed Adam," he explained.
"But the sad thing is that even in Patty Wetterling's case that I revisited after 25 years. It's the not knowing is what kills them, they can accept the fact that your child has been murdered. It's the not knowing what happened to your child is the thing that really breaks your heart."
Walsh was joined by fellow panelists Dr. Pauline Boss, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota and the author of "Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief"; Jan Fedarcyk, former Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) of the FBI's New York Office and the first FBI liaison assigned to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; and Robert Lowery, the Vice President of the Missing Children Division at the NCMEC.
In addition to the panel's insight, a concerned Behar shared a past, frightening experience when her then-5-year-old daughter went missing for less than an hour at the Bronx Zoo. "I have never experienced that level of pain or anxiety I felt in that short moment," she explained.
While Behar was one of the lucky ones to find her daughter, many other parents have to live with that feeling of utter desperation, fear and anguish for most of their lives. Even actress and "SNL" alum Tina Fey experienced a disturbing encounter with a stranger as a child, she pointed out.
"Tina Fey was talking about when she was eight years old and some guy came into her backyard and slashed her face," Behar said. "It makes you so nervous that you just worry about your children all the time."
While the "The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act" was passed by President George W. Bush on July 26, 2006, the ongoing concern is more than warranted.
"There are at least 100,000 level three sex offenders at large in parole or in probation violation," Walsh pointed out, (a figure that has been disputed), but there are actions that parents can take to protect their children.
Walsh advises that parents should not be "paranoid," but vigilant and know what their kids are doing online, talk to their kids, go to their local sex offender registry and find out where they live. Seek information from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children or the FBI.
Also, be aware that crimes don't always stem from "stranger danger," but that it can be close to home -- a family member, a step-father, a coach, a priest or anyone close to the child.
"Parent up and talk to your kids," Walsh added. "Don't assume it can't happen to you ... whether you're in Beverly Hills or the Hamptons ... predators are everywhere."
While we raise our children to be polite, you can also "empower you children to say no," added Robert Lowery, the Vice President of the Missing Children Division at the NCMEC.
Check out the official trailer to "The Missing" on STARZ. The second episode airs this Saturday, Nov. 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
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