Families of HOPE: Carol Ryan
Carol Ryan was reunited with her daughter 28 days after she went missing. Read about her experience in our ongoing series from volunteers with Team HOPE, a peer support program for families with missing or sexually exploited children.
In 2003, my 14-year-old daughter disappeared from home. It was soon discovered that she was with a 56-year-old man. This man attended our church, but no one there had any idea he was a dangerous predator. Unknown to us, he was actually a convicted murderer.
In the early 1980’s he kidnapped and killed a woman he attended church with. His first victim looked very much like my daughter. Twenty years later, it seemed like this man was re-offending in very similar circumstances.
He met my daughter at church, but gained access to her through the internet and soon began threatening and manipulating her. He also threatened to hurt her family, especially her young brothers.
My daughter eventually left home with him in a final attempt to protect her family from harm. We knew nothing of this. Instead, we anguished about why our daughter left home with such a creepy man.
Miraculously, through the outstanding efforts of multiple police agencies, AMBER Alert notifications and committed prayer partners, my daughter was safely recovered. She was missing 28 days and was located 2,180 miles from home. I struggled to understand how this happened and what I could do to repair the damage.
After my daughter came home my family was falling apart and I didn’t know how to fix the damage. I felt like I had failed as a parent and lost whatever confidence I still had. Those were terrible days. At that time, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Team HOPE was very important to me.
Sharing with someone who understood made me hopeful that maybe things would improve. It reassured me to know another family had overcome similar challenges. On bad days, Team HOPE was there to lean on. On good days, Team HOPE was there to celebrate with.
I still am friends with the volunteer who supported me, and now I support other parents as a member of Team HOPE.
If your life has been touched by the heartbreak of having a missing or exploited child and you feel you need support contact Team HOPE at 1-866-305-HOPE.