Montreal

Missing Children's Network launches new program in Quebec schools to prevent runaways

The Missing Children’s Network is thanking an anonymous donor for helping it to launch a new program in Quebec schools to prevent children from running away and risk being sexually exploited.

Program to fight sexual exploitation includes workshop, videos to boost self-esteem

Pina Arcamone, the executive director of the Missing Children's Network, says that one in three runaways fall into sexual exploitation. (CBC)

The Missing Children's Network is thanking an anonymous donor for helping it to launch a new program in Quebec school to preventing children from running away and risk being sexually exploited.

After an anonymous Montreal family donated $500,000, the organization came up with a program called SHINE which will be presented at schools across the province in Grades 5, 6 and 7.

"Considering that the majority of missing children's cases are young runaways between the ages of 12 and 17, our goal was to get to the pre-teen — before they even consider [running] away — by alerting them to the dangers of running away and identify the signs of sexual exploitation," said Pina Arcamone, the Missing Children's Network's executive director.

Arcamone said that one in three runaways fall into sexual exploitation.

SHINE, already launched in 10 Montreal-area schools last year as a pilot project, features a 45-minute video, followed by a discussion that focuses on self-esteem, body image and boundaries.

"They have the right to assert themselves and to disclose any time that something has happened to them — not to keep it to themselves. There is help."

Éric Hauptman, the father of a runaway teen, said he 'went through hell' when his daughter ran away from home in 2016. (CBC)
Éric Hauptman, whose daughter ran away in 2016, thinks the program will make a difference.

"You get at the teenage years, your body changes, the way you think starts to change. You are questioning yourself. You question your identity and you want to be popular…. It's not always easy to go to mom and dad," said Hauptman.

"Unfortunately, these pimps are getting contact with our kids through ... social media, and they pretend to be their friends.... They tell our children, 'Hey, your parents just wanna control you. Come with us, you'll have fun.' That's very powerful to say to a teenager."

Hauptman's daughter was found and returned home. She is now back in school and has a part-time job.

"Thank God her life changed, and she pulled through. It wasn't easy, but we're all heading in the right direction," Hauptman said.

SHINE also includes seminars for parents, teaching them what signs to look for to identify risks of sexual exploitation.

"We need to talk to parents about what teens are living today," Arcamone said.

This year, SHINE will be presented in schools in cities and towns right across Quebec, including Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec City, Gaspé and in the Beauce, as well as in several First Nations communities.

With files from Jay Turnbull

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