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New endangered missing advisory alert does its job

A missing Michigan 2-year-old is safely back home after a day on the road with her father.

The father, who was already facing serious criminal charges involving sexual conduct with a minor, had been granted unsupervised parenting time with his daughter. Accordingly, he had picked her up from her foster parents and left for his scheduled 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. visitation.

And then he simply didn't come back.

Police did not issue an Amber Alert for the girl because Michigan is among the states that have developed a lower-grade alert in order to avoid "Amber Alert fatigue," which can cause people to simply ignore the notices about missing children that they get on their cellphones or see on their television screens.

Michigan's new system includes an alert known as an Endangered Missing Advisory. The criteria to qualify for an Amber Alert is higher and now requires an actual child abduction to take place. There also has to be a reasonable belief that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.

In this case, there was no reason for that suspicion. The father had made no threats and had never been accused of abusing his daughter. The sexual molestation charges against him also involve unrelated minors, not his daughter. The police didn't believe he intended to harm the girl but was simply fleeing his upcoming trial. Authorities were also "pinging" the father's cellphone throughout the time the girl was missing, which allowed them to track her as she was moved.

In addition, since the father did have unsupervised visitation rights, the case was never treated as a kidnapping, but merely a situation where the father was overdue in returning the girl to her foster family.

While there's been some criticism in this particular case, the new standards actually may provide some relief for parents who are honestly delayed in returning their children from visitation -- they have less to fear from a vindictive ex-partner who might accuse them of kidnapping.

It's important to note that the father in this case didn't get a "free pass" for his actions, which were clearly not an unavoidable accident. Her father and his friend (who drove the car they used to flee with the child) are both charged with conspiracy to commit unlawful imprisonment for keeping the child from her foster family -- a charge that could lead to a 15-year term.

Source: Fox 17 West Michigan, "Two men accused of kidnapping in custody, child is safe," Bob Brenzing and Dana Chicklas, Jan. 24, 2017

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