Cleo Smith’s parents consider changing their name

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Cleo’s parents consider changing her name to protect her from unwanted attention. Photo / Provided

Cleo Smith’s parents are considering changing her name to protect her from unwanted attention after her disappearance and miraculous rescue made international headlines.

The 4-year-old girl was reportedly abducted from her family’s tent at a campsite near Carnavon, Western Australia on October 16 last year.

After a frantic search on the ground, at sea and in the air, she was found at Carnavon’s home when police stormed the property nearly three weeks later. Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, has been charged with offenses including forcibly kidnapping a child under 16 and will next appear in court on January 24.

Cleo’s mother, Ellie Smith, and stepfather, Jake Glidden, have sought advice from other parents whose children have been unwittingly thrust into the spotlight, according to an exclusive report from the Daily Mail.

Cleo with her mother, stepfather and sister.  Photo/Facebook
Cleo with her mother, stepfather and sister. Photo/Facebook

The couple ask how young victims of high-profile crimes recovered psychologically and whether their parents considered the professional counseling process worthwhile.

A WA Police spokeswoman said she encouraged Smith to talk about Cleo’s future with parents of other children who have gone through comparable traumatic events.

Cleo’s story is expected to continue to make headlines during Kelly’s court appearances and as she reaches personal milestones, including the anniversary of her kidnapping and suspected rescue.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has even suggested that a film will one day be made about the ordeal, joking about who could star in a dramatization of Cleo’s disappearance and recovery.

Smith and Glidden are said to be concerned about how their daughter will cope with the years of intensive attention, and “the repercussions from the media and so on on the track”, a source told the Daily Mail.

Smith even discussed with friends the possibility of changing the first and last name of his eldest daughter in an effort to protect her identity.

Screenshots of footage from when police rescue Cleo Smith from a Carnarvon home.  Photo/Washington State Police
Screenshots of footage from when police rescue Cleo Smith from a Carnarvon home. Photo/Washington State Police

Forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro said it was “a big call to change a child’s identity”, adding “there should be pretty compelling reasons for it”.

“I understand that they don’t want publicity, they don’t want to draw attention to themselves, they want to blend in with the community. But that has to be seen in the context of the age of the child, of their 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 the hardiness of the kid, but it’s not something you’ll rush into in my opinion.”

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 need to be closely monitored.

“The big concern I have now is childhood PTSD, where you have constant frightening thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, a marked change in mood and thinking and they will, of course, be there. ‘lookout for this,’ he said.

Speaking to The West around the same time, Carr-Gregg said it was important Cleo got back to a normal life as she had “been through enough”.

“I think mom and dad are going to have to do a lot to protect her from her newfound notoriety, because I don’t think it’s going to be helpful,” he said.

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