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Madeleine McCann Sighting Tears a Family Apart

August 1, 2011

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Jeanne Sager on July 28, 2011

The parents of Madeleine McCann — the little girl who went missing from a hotel room in Portugal four years ago — are taking comfort today in the knowledge that people still care about the fate of their little girl. A British woman traveling in India spotted a kid who looked like Maddie in the city of Leh and called the police. And though Gerry and Kate McCann’s private investigators have said the sighting isn’t credible, the couple who left their child in a hotel room to have dinner four years ago know that someone is still fighting for them.

They’re doing OK today (or at least about as well as can be expected under the circumstances). But the French woman and Belgian man whose flesh and blood daughter was yanked from their arms because she looked like Maddie could really use your sympathy.

Despite insisting the child was their own biological daughter, the couple had their passports seized by Indian authorities, and they’ve been subjected to DNA testing, just to prove their kid is their own. As far as nightmare travel stories go, this one may just take the cake.

My heart goes out to this family today as I wonder what they’re telling their daughter; if, indeed, they’re even allowed to see their child. The girl can only be around 8 years old, the age Madeleine McCann would be today. She must be scared, confused, terrified.

It’s a fear I confess I’ve had more than once. Kids don’t carry ID, at least not here in America. If we’re far from home, if something happens, how do I prove that she is indeed my child? Carrying most of their vital paperwork is discouraged because of the identity theft risk.

I know I spent nine months carrying her in my belly and 13 hours in labor with this kid, but it’s really my word against anyone else’s until a DNA test is completed. A good friend, who is no longer married to her son’s father, has taken to carrying a copy of her license from her second marriage with her, plus a copy of her divorce papers. It’s to prove that although her son does not share her last name, she is, in fact, his mother. That she does this too makes me feel a little less neurotic (or at least in good company!).

Can you imagine someone walking up to you on the street and claiming your child looked like the kid on a missing child poster? Would you be able to prove they were yours?

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