4/29/07 Siblings of the Missing: Special Report, Conclusion
Project Jason agrees with the FFMPU that issues concerning siblings of missing persons have long languished behind the scenes, not unlike the siblings themselves. We hope the series will aid those who support the siblings to have a better understanding and response to their special needs. (My bolding for emphasis.)
REPORT ON THE ROUNDTABLE MEETING FOR SIBLINGS OF MISSING PEOPLE
30 APRIL 2005
INFORMATION FOR PARENTS ABOUT THE IMPACT ON SIBLINGS
Participants identified opportunities for parents to be informed about the impact on siblings of having a sister or brother go missing. They felt that if parents knew the impacts, they would be less likely to inappropriately use their child as a ‘counsellor’ and more likely to direct their
child to services that might assist. Information could be provided to parents wherever they
contact the service system, but in particular could be included in written material or on web sites that parents of missing children access or provided by counsellors that parents access for assistance. There was also the suggestion that all publications for parents or general audiences should have a section that prompts information sharing to all family members; perhaps a statement such as “This booklet may also be important to .....”.
INFORMATION FOR SIBLINGS … SEPARATE FROM PARENTS
All participants felt that siblings needed to be able to access information that would help them cope with the loss of their brother or sister. Even if the information was very similar to the information provided to parents, it needed to be packaged appropriately for siblings and
directed towards them. Materials developed for siblings – web-based and written – could describe the stages siblings may go through after a brother or sister goes missing and indicate where the sibling can go for assistance.
INFORMATION TO FAMILIES AND FRIENDS ABOUT HOW THE SERVICE SYSTEM WORKS
Fact sheets need to be available to families of missing people at all agencies that they may access for assistance that help family members to understand:
• what the agency will do;
• what other agencies can do;
• what the family could be doing;
• who the family can contact for different types of assistance; and
• common experiences that the family may confront and how to handle these, for example how to handle private investigators and media and what to consider if putting up a poster about their missing family member.
General community service announcements that help family members to identify agencies that may be able to assist them where also supported. One participant, for example, suggested that there could be a referral to a service at the end of the television program ‘Without a Trace’.
INFORMATION TO OTHER FAMILY AND FRIENDS
There was also a call for information to be available to people who may want or need to help the family (e.g. grandparents or friends) about what the family is going through and how they may be able to be of the greatest assistance.
LIBRARY OF RESOURCES
Because of the difficulty of accessing information and supports, participants were very enthusiastic about the possibility of a central library of information located somewhere easily accessible to siblings, other family members and friends of missing people. This would hold
copies of brochures and fact sheets as well as other resources like television and radio interviews that are appropriate.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR SIBLINGS TO TALK WITH OTHER SIBLINGS
There was a strong message that the roundtable had been really useful to the siblings who participated and that there should be more opportunities for siblings of missing people to have more contact with one another. The idea of regular support groups was not widely supported, because of the logistical issues of getting people together regularly. Instead participants felt that it would be useful for there to be a system of peer support, where siblings could contact other siblings by telephone or email to ask questions, talk about their experiences, etc. This would need to be well coordinated and peers would need to have some training, but might be useful for both the person needing to make contact and the peer offering assistance.
NATIONAL REGISTER OF MISSING PEOPLE
Participants supported the need for a national register of missing people that would assist in a coordinated effort across Australia to find a missing sibling.
Several participants had had very poor experiences with ounsellors who they had turned to for support and so it as agreed that it is important for training and information to be provided to counsellors who may have contact with family members of missing people. Another option is that an experienced agency such as FFMPU could provide a consulting service to counsellors working with a family member of a missing person. A key point for training is about how the counsellor can assist a person in a situation where there is no immediate resolution to the issue causing the grief and loss.
5. PRIORITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
When participants were asked at the end of the roundtable what was their one priority for changes to be made to the service system they identified the following issues:
• educating police (state and national) and the epartment of Foreign Affairs and Trade about how to better work with families of missing people;
• changes to privacy law to make it easier for a family member or agency to track a missing person; and
• a website for siblings containing information on ther siblings dealing with the same type of situation, showing real faces and telling real stories and xperiences.
This important meeting of siblings of missing people clearly meet the objectives of the meeting planners: siblings used the opportunity to talk openly about their experiences and to listen with interest and compassion to the experiences of the other participants; the discussions provided a rich source of information for the FFMPU to take forward in the facilitation and development of services to siblings in the future; and reports of the meeting – both verbal and written – should assist the missing persons sector to understand and plan interventions to better meet the needs of siblings in the future.
Tangible conclusions to the meeting were that:
• the FFMPU made a commitment to progress the recommendations made by siblings who attended the meeting; and
• siblings agreed to being contacted individually if new siblings indicated that they might benefit from support and the FFMPU counsellor agreed to make the links between siblings with the privacy of all siblings assured.
Project Jason's thanks to:
Families & Friends of Missing Persons Unit
Attorney General’s Department of NSW
P: 02) 9374 3014 / 1800 227 772 (outside Sydney metro)
F: 02) 9374 3020 • E: firstname.lastname@example.org
ISBN 0 7347 2865 4 July 2005