(Orange, Texas)

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May 9, 2013

Hope can be painful for families of missing kids



The arrests of three brothers has given the Adkins family hope for Christina, but has also stoked the dread that has been part of their lives for 18 years.

"I do believe that they're gonna break open some cases," Tonia Adkins said. "I'm scared that I'm gonna get the news that my sister's not alive."

The space between hope and resignation is a difficult place.

"It's an absolutely terrible predicament to be in. I can't imagine what families go through wondering — just the lack of knowing," said Bob Hoever, director of special programs with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

He recommends hope and sees this as the powerful lesson of the Cleveland case.

"I believe this is a tremendous boost to families giving them hope, that we should never give up looking for their children," Hoever said. "The National Center never stops looking for a missing child. As long as they're missing, we will continue looking."

But Sherry Hamby, a psychology professor at Sewanee: The University of the South who studies the victimization of children, said some families can become frozen in time at the point their child disappeared.

"At some point, after so many years have gone by, there's a lot to be said for closure," Hamby said. "It's just not a natural state of being for humans to be frozen in this time, waiting. We can't stay in that kind of limbo forever."

The most difficult decisions, Hamby said, can involve what seem like mundane details.

"Are you going to pack up that child's things? Are you going to convert that room to another use?" she said. "I think the need for psychological closure just is necessary because of the concrete limitations that we are facing. It's just hard to go through life trying to not make any changes."

Murphy, of Project Jason, knows families who have chosen to believe their missing child is dead, and she does not begrudge them that choice.

But Murphy holds onto hope, "because it keeps us focused on the future."

"It's just unfortunate that in our case," she said, "we don't know what the future holds."


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