Parents of "runaways" hurting for help - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Parents of "runaways" hurting for help

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Hundreds of Iowa children go missing every year, many of whom are classified as runaways. Despite the number of kids who go missing, Iowa has issued just 19 Amber Alerts ever, with its first in August of 2003.

There was no Amber Alert issued for the recent case of 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard or for last summer's missing Evansdale cousins.

An Amber Alert for a missing child activates media broadcasts and law enforcement notifications throughout the state or even region. However, parents of children who are missing but don't meet Amber Alert criteria are left wondering what resources are available to them.

Dubuque father Dale Konzen counts himself among the fortunate. His daughter, 15-year-old Brooke Konzen, went missing on May 28 with a male friend. Police classified her as a runaway.

"We don't love our kids any less just because of the fact that maybe they weren't abducted or whatever," Konzen said. "It doesn't mean we don't worry about them just as much. It kind of gets to you."

Worried, Dale Konzen distributed flyers and spread the word. He said his attempts to get word of his daughter's disappearance into the media failed. Six days after going missing, Brooke called a family friend and returned home.

"It turned out great in the end, but it's always the 'what-ifs,'" Konzen said. "There's so many other ones out there that don't."

Nearby East Dubuque, Ill. mother Lori Lyons is not so fortunate. Her daughter, Chyenne Kircher, went missing as a 14-year-old on Oct. 13, 2011. She turns 16 in June.

Also classified as a runaway, Kircher left a note behind saying she didn't want to be found, but that doesn't make her mom feel any better.

"What I want to do is go knock on every single door in America and ask if they've seen my kid," Lyons said.

Both she and Konzen said word of their missing children spread quickly on Facebook, but they wish more could be done for children in that situation.

"If Facebook wasn't around or any of those social media Web sites, only thing we could've done was just go around, hanging flyers up," Konzen said, suggesting that runaways get some media coverage if they meet a certain time threshold, such as three or four days after the missing child report is filed.

Both he and Lyons also said they are not wealthy people and could not afford things like a private investigator or a reward offering.

"They can contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and see what their parameters would be as far as listing it," Dubuque assistant police chief Terry Tobin said.

Kircher is in that database.

Police immediately enter every report of a missing child into the National Crime Information Center database, Tobin said.

"There are a lot of things that go on in the background that parents, the general public may not see in our efforts to locate missing persons," he said.

Amber Alerts are issued when the child has been abducted, is believed to be in harm's way and when there's enough information about the child and the abduction itself.

Still, for worried parents, no amount of searching or effort is enough until their child returns home.

Dubuque police investigated 183 runaway reports last year alone, and 102 runaway reports so far in 2013. Tobin said most of those missing kids, however, are found within the first day or two.

As for Lyons, after 20 months of a missing daughter, she said she just wants to know Chyenne is still alive.

"Come home," she said, tearing up, "because everybody else's life stopped, including mine."

Anybody with information about Chyenne Kircher's whereabouts can call the East Dubuque, Ill. Police Department at 815-747-3913.

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