NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is searching for more than 20 missing children and some worry that number could be on the rise.
The latest added to the list is 16-year-old Joy Tennin-Tate from Nashville.
“It has been a rollercoaster honestly,” explained Jenia Tennin, Joy’s mother. “I just don’t know what to say, it’s definitely been a rollercoaster because my biggest thing is, is my daughter safe?”
Just days away from Christmas, there is one thing on Tennin’s mind — the safety of her young teenager. According to Metro Police, this is not the first time Joy has gone missing, but her mother says despite her daughter’s previous behavior, she is hopeful authorities will help locate her.
“I just want her home,” said Tennin, holding back tears.
Joy went missing on Monday, Dec. 13, after police located her in another county with two men, running away, according to her mother. Once home, Tennin took a picture of her daughter, and then 15 minutes later she went missing yet again.
“I talked to her, and I know one of the things I said to her was that I love her,” remembered Tennin.
Joy was last seen wearing a black coat, multi-colored dress and white shoes. Originally, she was considered to be a runaway, but now she sits at the top of the TBI’s Missing Child List.
Tennin is just one of many parents hoping their child will be back home for the holiday. With more than 20 names on the TBI’s Missing Child List, experts warn the number of missing teens could increase, especially during the holiday break.
“Some issues at home, some have abuse issues, it could just be that the kids are missing that social connection that they get at school, but they do seem to increase during the downtime for school,” said Victoria Vaughn, Director of Operations, Middle TN Missing Children.
Vaughn is part of the Facebook group, “Middle Tennessee Missing Children,” dedicated to missing minors (17 and younger) in the Middle Tennessee area. She said oftentimes there is a stigma linked to children who are labeled as runaways, and now, she is working hard to change it.
“I feel like people generally equate the word runaway with bad, and that’s not always the case. They still have friends and family that want them to come home safe and want to make sure that they’re okay, and they’re all minors, they all need to be looked for,” explained Vaughn. “They’re still a missing minor, they are still a loved one, and they need to be located and made sure that they are in a safe environment.”
If you have any information on Joy’s whereabouts you asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND or the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.