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Making progress in reuniting families

Head of Natl. Center for Missing and Exploited Children explains to 'The Abrams Report' how his group is bringing parents and kids back together

With the evacuation of the Gulf Coast separating many children from their parents, the task of reuniting families has been an important one in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

On Friday, MSNBC's Dan Abrams spoke with Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about the progress his organization made in joining together lost children with their parents and families.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

DAN ABRAMS: Ernie thanks again for coming on the program.  Look, you were on the program on Monday.  We talked about this problem; you said that there was progress being made.  Give us an update. 

ERNIE ALLEN, PRES., NAT'L CTR. FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN:  Well we've made great progress.  There have been an additional 300 children identified, recovered, reunited with their families.  The numbers of calls have increased.  The number of children in the shelters separated from their families has dropped to very few, maybe 50 in Louisiana, comparable number in Texas.  So we think we're making real headway, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  What do you do with the children who are too young?  I mean you heard that story about Gabby who's 2.  What do you do with the children who are simply too young to say or know their names?

ALLEN:  We're taking their pictures; we're showing their pictures to the public by television and NBC and MSNBC have been wonderful partners in that effort.  We're trying to reach out to anybody who knows we're working with law enforcement, social services, following whatever tiny clue we can develop like little Gabby saying her name. 

ABRAMS:  Are you concerned that with some of these kids, their parents may have died? 

ALLEN:  Absolutely.  We know that some of these 2,000 cases are going to have tragic endings.  Our open is that, that number is as small as possible.  But we also think that many of these kids, there may be innocent explanations-a neighbor, an extended family member who has the child and because the parent is somewhere else, we just haven't been able to bring them together yet. 

ABRAMS:  Ernie, what can you do or what are people doing to make sure that these kids are actually the children of someone who comes forward?  Someone walks in and says 'Oh, you know I saw this -- the name on the Web site.  That's my child.  I want to take him home.'  How do you make sure it's parent-child?

ALLEN:  Dan, you validate and verify.  We are working very closely with social services agencies in these states, with law enforcement.  They are pursuing every bit of information they can to be sure.  Just yesterday, a judge in Houston heard a case where a family had lost all of its custody, all of its documents before turning that child over, so we're doing everything we can to do due diligence. 

ABRAMS:  Here's how you can help or if you need help, here's what you can do.  Go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Web site, or call the Katrina missing persons hot line at 1-888-544-5475. 

Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.