Missing Children: How "Cause-Related Marketing" Fuels the Scandal
by John Edward Gill
Earlier in his show, aired during August, 1997, he mentioned the telephone company making such cards and the oil company which sold them through its gas stations. He didn't mention that such cards don't find missing children, though. They have a child's small, postage stamp-sized picture on them and, just like on postcards, these pictures are outdated and hard to read.
Also, he didn't mention that the National Center and approximately 35 other similar agencies are not law enforcement agencies and don't look for missing children.
Such cards are part of that National Center's "cause-related marketing" campaign, a promotional program designed to raise private funds. With seminars in its Alexandria office, that National Center presents companies with useless child identification programs that receive much publicity, but don't find children. These programs include fingerprinting, videotaping, DNA fingerprinting, and pictures of children on milk cartons, utility company bills, highway billboards, grocery bags, electronic bulletin boards, and now phone credit cards.
Fingerprints dont help you locate the child, said Jim Green, crime prevention officer of the Lees Summit, Missouri, police department. All they can do is be used to identify the child.
Yet such programs produce contributions from those corporations to the National Center.
"'Cause-related marketing' is the National Center's main program, not finding children," said Nikki Abbott, founder of Services for the Missing, in Gibbsboro, New Jersey. "They don't look for children. They look for money." Abbott founded her group in the early 1980s.
Funded with eight million dollars annually from the U. S. Justice Department and about the same amount from private corporations, the National Center does not send search and rescue teams into the field to look for children.
Newspaper reporters and law enforcement officials confirm that local and state police and F.B.I. agents actually look for abducted or lost children. They have trained personnel with bloodhounds, helicopters, infra-red sensors, night vision (or "starlight") scopes, four-wheel drive vehicles, boats, maps, etc., which the National Center doesn't have.
Even some of the National Center's own officials concede that local law enforcement handles missing child cases. When learning from police about a missing child, "the case manager assigned to the case continues to follow NCMEC's standard operating procedures until informed by law enforcement as to the resolution of the case," said Ruben Rodriguez, head of the National Center's Informational Analysis Unit.
He didnt say what those operating procedures were.
Other officials concur.
"We don't do investigation," said Ben Ermini, director of case management for the National Center. "We don't go into it as thoroughly as the local authorities."
"NCMEC (National Center) is dependent on law enforcement and parents to let us know about a recovery/location (of a missing child), said John Rabun, vice president of the National Center.
And on that same Geraldo show, Geraldo asked Ms. Gay Le-Clerc, New York Director of the National Center, What can a parent do (when a child is missing)?
We want them to call police first, 911, she said.
So, despite claims that it has found more than 47,000 children since 1984, the National Center hasn't recovered one child.
"They just call the NCIC (National Crime Information Center, run by the F.B.I.) and state police to find out who is gone and who has come home," Abbott continued. "Then they issue 'recovery' reports based on what law enforcement tells them."
Conservative philosophy of the Reagan administration encouraged the National Center to use private enterprise, not police, to seemingly find children. Corporate executives soon joined its Board of Directors, with the National Center holding those "cause-related marketing" seminars to teach businesses how to make money from child tragedies.
"The National Center has worked closely with hundreds of corporate partners throughout the country to help us in our efforts to assist the families of missing and exploited children," said Ernie Allen, president of that National Center, in its January, 1990, edition of his newsletter, At The Center. "Corporate partners have made significant monetary contributions, distributed photographs of missing children, disseminated safety tips, and implemented cause-related marketing campaigns to bring greater public awareness to these important issues."
Such "marketing" actually began immediately after the National Center opened in May, 1984. By June, 1985, it had a commitment from Dole Packaged Foods to mail two pages of advertising inserts with coupons to over forty-three million households in America during the week of September 15, 1985.
President Reagan's picture was on top of one page; four coupons were at the bottom. Citizens were asked to buy Dole's products, send in those coupons, and receive up to $1.60 worth of coupons for other Dole Products.
"Help us find our missing children," the President
was quoted as saying, next to his picture. Dole then proclaimed: "President Reagan is voicing the plea of thousands of Americans who want to stop the growing epidemic of missing and exploited children. Now, you can join Dole and respond to this call for help."
Headlines for the ad read "Support the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children with Dole." In smaller print was the sales copy: "Bring in Dole coupons, and Help Bring Missing Children Home." It released a statement from the President, on White House stationery, dated July 10th, 1985. "I am proud to recognize and commend Dole Food Company's efforts on behalf of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children," Reagan said.
An advertising executive for this promotion invited local missing children agencies to join local supermarkets in "Color Safety Photo Day" sessions in their stores to photograph children.
Through its newsletters, first called At The Center and now Frontline , there are lists of new members to the Corporate Partnership Roll, businesses who gave money or services and received publicity and/or pictures of missing children to help sell their products.
On the front page of its newsletter in April, 1987, for instance, there was a picture of then-Vice President George Bush with officials from both the National Center and Worlds of Wonder (WOW), a toy distributor.
Next to Bush was Donald Kingsborough, CEO of WOW, who held Teddy Ruxpin, a teddy bear who was the official "spokesbear" of the National Center. Ruxpin was mentioned in the photo caption, and it'd been given to various speakers and politicians at two national conventions on missing children held in Chicago in 1986 and 1987. The National Center claimed WOW "is our largest corporate contributor, helping us provide the Center's vital services at no charge to families."
Such free "vital services" weren't explained.
However, in its October 31, 1988, edition, Business Week reported that Teddy Ruxpin was made in mainland China by 12-year-old girls working 14 hours a day while earning between ten dollars and 31 dollars a month. Working at their sewing machines seven days a week, the girls were ordered to put in one or two 24-hour shifts each month, with only two meal breaks a day.
Kadar Enterprises Ltd, the manufacturer, set the work rules and World of Wonder washed its hands of the labor conditions. Because Kadar is a subcontractor, "You don't have much to say," said John A. McCarthy, operations vice president of WOW, in San Francisco. "If you get into the middle of their business, they're offended."
Teddy Ruxpin bears sold for about 60 dollars each in America.
Sometimes the girls slept two or three to a bed in a factory dormitory, which was in Shekou, China, about 50 minutes by hydrofoil from Hong Kong. Business Week, in its article headlined, "Long, Hard Days -- At Pennies An Hour," said that workers could be blacklisted and fired if they didn't work overtime. Written by Dinah Lee and Rose Brady, the article also said Kadar made Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls for WOW.
"We can work these girls all day and all night, while in Hong Kong it would be impossible," said a Kadar executive on the Shekou shop floor. "We couldn't get this kind of labor, even if we were willing to meet Hong Kong wage levels."
President Reagan gave Worlds of Wonder a 1987 Presidential Award for Private Sector Initiatives. That company also received a commendation from the President's Child Safety partnership "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the safety of America's children."
They quickly became the National Center To Exploit Missing Children, said Abbott.
Formally introduced in the January, 1990, edition of At The Center, "cause-related marketing" dominated most of the stories published in that issue. The front page featured a picture of the public relations director of a New England-based security and alarm company. Julia Cartwright, the Center's media director, stood next to him. A story said that since 1985 that company had distributed pictures of children and that its public relations person was the first executive "loaned" to the National Center as part of its "Executive Loan Program."
His duties were not explained though.
"One of the features of our cooperative effort (with corporations) will be a monthly all-day presentation at our headquarters structured for corporate executives, staff, and others to come and learn about the Center, its mission, the benefits and how to's of cause-related marketing...," that newsletter said.
Four months later the National Center promoted those seminars again with another full page in its newsletter, asking companies and citizens to join its Child Seekers Network, for a donation of $25 or more. There was a coupon to cut out and mail to its offices, but no specific details on what this Network did other than urging members to hold their own "cause-related marketing" seminars for their companies and communities.
That coupon did say, however, that the National Center was chartered to protect children from victimization outside the family.
That New England company organized a Child Seekers Week in May, 1990, to raise money for the National Center. Teddy Ruxpin, two years after that Business Week article, was displayed in many of its stores.
That same newsletter, dated May, 1990, introduced parents to DNA blood "fingerprinting" as a means of identifying their children. Called "Birth Mark," such a DNA blood sample could provide "valuable information on child identification." Under a headline, "National Center Recommends Use of `Birth Mark' as Child Identification Tool, an article mentioned a Maryland medical laboratory which sold such a process to hospitals and pediatricians. There was a picture of that laboratory's director and a notice that it made in-kind contributions to the National Center.
"For information on how to order this product (a DNA blood sample) for your child, please contact the National Center's Development and Education Division," that newsletter said.
Officials at the National Center would not say why they advertised private products with government money.
"DNA has been promoted by the National Center and other questionable groups for a long time," said Abbott recently. "Nobody ever asks if DNA can find a child alive. It only identifies bodies."
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