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Cleo Smith’s parents to consider changing her name
January 20, 2022
Cleo Smith’s parents are considering changing her name to shield her from unwanted attention after her disappearance and miraculous rescue made international headlines.
The 4-year-old was allegedly abducted from her family’s tent at a campsite near Carnavon, in Western Australia, on October 16 last year.
After a frantic ground, sea and air search, she was found at Carnavon house when police stormed the property almost three weeks later. Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, was charged with offences including forcibly taking a child aged under 16, and will next appear in court on January 24.
Cleo’s mother, Ellie Smith, and stepfather, Jake Glidden, have been seeking advice from other parents whose children have been unwittingly thrust into the spotlight, according to an exclusive report by the Daily Mail.
The couple is asking how young victims of high-profile crimes recovered psychologically, and if their parents considered the process of professional counselling worthwhile.
A spokeswoman for the WA Police Force said they have encouraged Smith to talk about Cleo’s future with the parents of other children who have experienced comparable traumatic events.
It’s expected Cleo’s story will continue to make headlines over the course of Kelly’s court appearances, and as she reaches personal milestones, including the anniversary of her alleged abduction and rescue.
West Australia Premier Mark McGowan even suggested a movie would one day be made about the ordeal, joking about who might star in a dramatisation of Cleo’s disappearance and recovery.
Smith and Glidden are reportedly concerned with how their daughter will cope with the years of intensive attention, and “the repercussions of the media and so forth down the track”, a source told the Daily Mail.
Smith has even raised with friends the possibility of changing her eldest daughter’s first and last names in an effort to protect her identity.
Forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro said it was “a big call to change a child’s identity”, adding “there’d have to be fairly compelling reasons for that”.
“I understand they don’t want publicity, they don’t want to draw attention to themselves, they want to blend into the community. But that has to be considered in the context of the age of the child, the child’s sense of identity at that age,” he told the Daily Mail.
“I guess it’s a case-by-case scenario depending on the publicity and how robust the child is but it’s not something you’d race into in my view.”
At the time of her rescue, child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg told Sunrise that Cleo’s reaction to what had happened to her would have to be closely monitored.
“The big concern that I have now is childhood PTSD, where you have constant, scary thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, a marked change in mood and thinking and they will, of course, be on the lookout for that,” he said.
Speaking to The West around the same time, Carr-Gregg said it was important Cleo resumed a normal life, as she had “been through enough”.
“I think mum and dad are going to have to do a lot to shield her from her new-found notoriety, because I don’t think that’s going to be helpful,” he said.