It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You turn around and your child is missing. If you never had that horrific feeling, even just for a second, consider yourself lucky. It’s a feeling you can’t describe. We see reports almost daily about child abductions and kidnappings. While children are found unharmed, many of these abductions do not end with the safe return of the child. Recently there have been amazing rescues and recoveries of long lost children, which turned into high profile cases. The most recent and most notorious cases are the Jaycee Lee Dugard case and the Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight cases. Many child abductions, however; do not end with a happy reunion and do not make national news.
It seems like there is a creep at every corner these days. Just this morning there was another report of someone trying to lure a little boy into a car, right in front of a busy strip mall. The little boy screamed and ran inside the store where his mother was shopping, and the guy drove off. Here is my question: “What was that little boy doing outside alone and why was the mother inside and not paying attention to where her child was?” Leaving a child unattended is not just a bad move because of Stranger Danger. A busy place or parking lot is not the place to leave your children unsupervised.
What do animals do? They never let their guard down, especially regarding their young. Develop that animal instinct. The most important thing you can do to keep your children safe is to never trust anyone and be aware of your surroundings. Keep your eyes and ears open and trust your gut feeling. This is a valuable lesson to teach your children as well. Listen to your gut feeling. Many times you can sense that something is not quite right if you pay attention. Perps become bolder and bolder in their approach and as a parent you can never let your guard down. Here is what you should keep in mind and things you can teach your children to keep them from being abducted or kidnapped.
Teaching Tools for Kids
One of the best teaching tools I ever got was a production by John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted, who teamed up with the creator of Baby Einstein, Julie Clark. Together they produced a Stranger Safety Video. It is “A laugh-out-loud journey into the world of being smart, cool, and safe. Recommended for Kids 4+years old, they learn how to avoid potentially dangerous situations with people they don’t know or kinda know in a fun and memorable way. Parenting “Video of the Year” winner.” (description of the video on the website). Another fantastic video is The Safe Side: Internet Safety. For children 5+ years old, the Safe Side gang will explain how things work on the internet, and share four Hot Tips for being safer on the Internet, making it a “Mom’s Choice” winner. My children enjoy watching these videos and most importantly, they learn about dangerous situation and how to avoid them in a fun and non-scary way. These videos are available as a download from iTunes and in DVD format from Amazon.
Here is a list of things you can do to prevent abductions and kidnappings:
- Get a passport for your children, that way it is much harder for someone else to obtain this document. This would be important in cases where children are taken out of the country.
- Teach your child that mean people do not look scary or look like monsters. They also don’t behave in a mean way. Just the opposite is true. They are often nice looking people, neighbors, friends, even relatives who are very nice and polite.
- Teach your children that when someone they don’t know approaches them or tries to talk to them, the rules can be broken. Rules such as being polite, helpful, respectful don’t apply anymore. Your children need to know that it is perfectly ok to kick, scream, trash and throw a full blown tantrum if that is what it takes to get noticed by others.
- Teach your children to spot and recognize dangerous situations such as someone asking them for help in finding a lost puppy, or trying to get them close to or into a car.
- Know at all times where your children are.
- Check out the route if they walk to school. Tell them to walk on the inside of the walkway, away from the street, to avoid being snatched from the street and dragged into a car. Tell them to walk towards the flow of traffic so they can see cars approaching.
- Check with your local police department about registered sex offenders in your area and don’t let your children near them.
- Retrofit your children with a tracking device either on their person, school bag or any other way like iPhone (can be set up to be found through iCloud).
- Conduct Background Checks on Nannies, Baby Sitters, Housekeepers, Yard Services, Pool Services and anyone else who might have access to your home and property.
- Check your doors and window to make sure they are properly locked, especially after a Service Call.
- Don’t leave spare keys hidden around the home. They can be easily found and provide unnoticed access to your home.
- Invest in a security system for your home.
- Let your preschool, school, activity center know who is allowed to pick up your children and request to check ID’s until the person is known.Get to know your children’s friends and their families and never let your child go over someone’s home to play unsupervised if you don’t really know them.
- Teach your child your home address and your phone number.
- Teach your children how to place a 911 call.
- Teach your child to find the nearest security guard, store employee or another mom with children should you get separated in a busy place like a mall, sports park, beach, etc. Teach them to NEVER EVER approach anyone else and tell him/her that they are lost.
- Teach them to scream on top of their lung and kick like crazy if someone tries to grab them. If they scream “Help, I am being kidnapped” or “Fire” they will get the attention of other people around.
- Always accompany your children in public restrooms.
- Never leave your children unattended in your car, stroller or anywhere else.
- Don’t get distracted by conversations with other adults and take your eyes of you children at a park, mall or event.
- Tell your children “Never hitchhike”.
- Get an ID card for your children. Contact your local police department for contacts or order a kit from the Internet. These id cards contain spaces for a recent photograph of your child, a fingerprint card and important data such as DOB, height, weight, eye color, hair color, identifying marks or scars, anything that can be tested for DNA and address. In the event of an abduction this information can be quickly passed on to law enforcement as time is of the essence in child abduction cases.
- Keep your children’s medical and dental files updated.
- Keep an open line of communication and know what is going on in your child’s life. This is especially important for older children as they tend to be more secretive.
- Teach older children about Internet safety and monitor their activity. There are many unassuming predators targeting children via the Internet.
- Implement a set of rules your children have to follow such as letting you know where they are, asking for permission to go somewhere, no alcohol or drugs, don’t walk or play somewhere alone, don’t talk to strangers and never go with a stranger.
The best thing a parent can do as children get older is to keep an open line of communication. If you child feels that they can come to you with anything, you will be able to identify problems early on.
Find important facts of child abductions, resources, procedures, a checklist of questions in case of an abduction and organizations with contact information in the “Missing and Abducted Children: A Law-Enforcement Guide to Case Investigation and Program Management”.