Local hospital helps find missing CLE children

Posted at 10:23 PM, May 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-29 10:00:58-04

In Cleveland alone, half of the people listed in the missing persons database under the age of 18.

In Ohio, 700 children are missing.

And according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in five "endangered runaways" is likely to fall victim to sex trafficking.

"We know that within 48 hours of being out on the street, you will be solicited for sex," said Karen McHenry, director of Bellefaire JCB's homeless and missing youth program. "We see it in Cuyahoga County every single day."

It is startling statistics like those that prompted Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland to make a change, piloting a program that coordinator Kathleen Hackett said isn't found anywhere else.

It's one that you may already think would be standard procedure for hospitals around the country -- checking the missing persons database when a minor comes in seeking treatment for issues like drugs, STDs or physical abuse.

At Rainbow now, it's not simply treat and release.

"These patients are vulnerable," Hackett said. "They're not just here for a drug overdose, they're not just here for a quick infection check, in and out. So we want to take that time and really look at them."

In just months of doing so, hospital staff has already helped find several missing children in our area.

"Recovering that victim and allowing that family member to be in contact with their child is an amazing response," Hackett said.

She said the next step is to bring the program to a national level and get to a point where all hosptitals, clinics and emergency rooms are working to get these children back where they belong -- safe.