Whatever Happened to Missing Kids on Milk Cartons?June 14, 2011 7 Comments
So as random as this is, I woke up this morning thinking, “Whatever happened to the milk carton kids from the 1980s?” Remember that big ongoing campaign that was so popular back in the 80s where every carton of the milk that was sitting in your refrigerator, or on your breakfast table, featured one or more missing children in a pleading-looking black and white image? Underneath the missing child’s innocent face would be their statistics: date of birth, where they were last seen, and maybe a brief description; possibly even who they were last seen with (a disgruntled, estranged parent, or perhaps a total stranger from the local Wal-mart?).
Those images of missing kids on milk cartons intrigued me and scared the shit out of me at the same time, as I sat there eating my cereal and contemplating the fact that maybe just a few months ago those kids were sitting safely in their homes with their parents looking at other doomed kids on the the milk cartons sitting on their kitchen tables. And, even at a young age (we’re going back now about 25 years or so) I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this missing kid milk carton phenomenon actually helping to find any missing kids or is this just window dressing for the greiving and hysterical parents that was concocted by some crafty politicians as a feeble and ineffectual attempt at getting the public to do all of the legwork for them?
I did some investingating on the results of this 1980s missing kid milk carton business, and here is what I found:
Well, it turns out that our technological means for tracking missing kids has grown more sophisticated since back in the milk carton days. Law enforcement now uses something called an Amber Alert to notify large populations of people about a missing child and the method is proving to be effective as it acts as something of a missing child press release wire service/lojack, shooting across a state within seconds to all relevant authorities. According to a 2010 article published by the Orlando Sentinel about two little girls who went missing from their father’s property, “When two little girls briefly vanished from their father’s Polk County home last week, electronic messages called Amber Alerts were fired off across the state within minutes.
“Alerts popped up on highway message boards and to more than 30,000 e-mail boxes before the suspected abductors — the girls’ mother and her boyfriend — were arrested in Orlando and the girls were found safe.” Kudos to that! I would think that the old milk carton routine probably wouldn’t have been nearly as effective. I know that sounds tongue-in-cheek, but I am being serious. It is kind of comical to think about how far we have come in certain areas of technology and sophictication, wouldn’t you agree? I mean, what was a 10 year old kid like me from Long Island, NY, slurping her cereal and staring at a milk carton, going to do about some missing kid last seen in Polk County, Wherever?
I looked further…
“His was one of the first photos of a missing child to appear on a milk carton. Almost 30 years later, Etan Patz is still missing,” states a CNN article published in 2009. The CNN article goes on to read, “Etan was 6 when he disappeared on May 25, 1979, the Friday before Memorial Day. He was on his way to school in what is now the upscale Soho neighborhood of New York.”
Ok, fine, so this kid was somewhat within target distance to my childhood home on Long Island, but to the untrained eye (and especially two eyes with an inherited astigmatism), it was a longshot at best, especially since by the time I would make my occassional weekend trip into Manhattan with my parents, the alleged abductors would likely have spotted that milk carton with their victim’s picture emblazoned on it, and they would be half-way to Canada by then!
I guess I answered my own questions folks. As much as those 1980s missing children on milk cartons campaign did bring kidnapping to the forefront of American minds and did spread awareness for missing and exploited children, it probably did little to actually secure many decent leads that led to capture and the safe return of these missing kids.
Thanks God for Amber Alerts, and for John Walsh and America’s Most Wanted, for that matter.Tags: American's Most Wanted, John Walsh, missing and exploited children, missing children on milk cartons, missing kids, missing kids on milk cartonsGeneral, Nostalgia, This Is Awesome