crimesider

48 Hours: Never giving up on missing kids

Pat Sessions, right, with his daughter Tiffany, who vanished in 1989. Pat Sessions

Missing kids. 125? Or 58,200? Depending on who you ask, the numbers are all over the board.

Stranger "stereotypical" kidnappings, which tend to be more long-term kidnappings by strangers, are rare. These are situations where a child is held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, ransomed, killed or held hostage on a more permanent basis. This type of kidnapping occurs less than 150 times a year.

But non-family abductions, which are more short- term kidnappings oftentimes occurring for reasons of sex and/or robbery, are a much more prevalent problem. There are a reported 58,000 every year.


One thing is certain; all these types of abductions are serious threats to our children and can be a long and sometimes heartbreaking journey for their families.

If you've watched "The Lost Daughter," the "48 Hours" special on the abduction and search for my daughter Tiffany Sessions, you've seen how long and tough this journey has been for me and my family.

WATCH: "48 Hours:" The Lost Daughter

While it appears now that we will never get Tiffany home safely, other families have been luckier.

These cases include the three women who survived the Ariel Castro kidnappings in Cleveland after being held for over 10 years; Jaycee Dugard, who was held for 18 years; Elizabeth Smart, who was recovered after one year of captivity and Shawn Hornbeck who was found after four years.

These stories, and many others, all prove that we should never give up on our missing children. And while these children took many years to recover, there are many other stories with much happier endings. Many of those happy endings are due to the efforts of families, law enforcement, and even strangers who came together to bring the child home safely.

In "When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide," a book I wrote with the Department of Justice and other families of missing children, we provide families with a guide to help themselves and law enforcement to quickly find their missing child during a chaotic time that few people have ever faced.

Here are a few key highlights from the book:

1. Don't try and do it all by yourself. The more people involved in the search, the more likely you will have a quick resolution. Call on law enforcement, friends, family, the media, politicians and anyone else you think can help.

2. Partner with law enforcement. They are best equipped to organize the hunt for your child.

3. Use traditional and social media to get pictures and the word out on your child as soon as possible.

4. Take care of yourself and other immediate family members. You can't help if you aren't functioning and your child's siblings need to be taken care of too.

What I've learned in 25 years of searching for Tiffany is to:

Don't ever give up, and ask for help!

While there are many sources and organizations that assist in finding missing children. Tthe premier organization for parents to turn to for help after notifying law enforcement is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Copies of "When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide" in both English and Spanish are available online. I hope you never have to use it, but if you do, remember, don't give up.

Pat Sessions' daughter Tiffany, a Florida college student, vanished in 1989. Developments in her case were featured on "48 Hours:" The Lost Daughter.

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