May 25th is National Missing Children’s Day. "Missing Children’s Day is dedicated to encouraging parents, guardians, caregivers, and others concerned with the well-being of children to make child safety a priority".
The truth about child abductions according to the Polly Klaas Foundation
99.8% of the children who go missing do come home.
• Nearly 90% of missing children have simply misunderstood directions or miscommunicated their plans, are lost, or have run away.
• 9% are kidnapped by a family member in a custody dispute.
• 3% are abducted by non-family members, usually during the commission of a crime such as robbery or sexual assault. The kidnapper is often someone the child knows.
• Only about 100 children (a fraction of 1%) are kidnapped each year in the stereotypical stranger abductions you hear about in the news.
• About half of these 100 children come home.
What Parents Can Do To Prevent Abductions
According to KidsHealth, about 2,100 missing-children reports are filed each day in the U.S. Many cases can be solved more easily when parents can provide key information about their kids, like: height, weight, eye color, and a clear recent photo.
It's also wise to:
• Make sure custody documents are in order.
• Have ID-like photos taken of your kids every 6 months and have them fingerprinted. Many local police departments sponsor fingerprinting programs.
• Keep your kids' medical and dental records up to date.
• Make online safety a priority. The Internet is a great tool, but it's also a place for predators to stalk kids. Be aware of your kids' Internet activities and chat room "friends," and remind them never to give out personal information. Avoid posting identifying information or photos of your kids online.
• Set boundaries about the places your kids go. Supervise them in places like malls, movie theaters, parks, public bathrooms, or while fundraising door to door.
• Never leave kids alone in a car or stroller, even for a minute.
• Choose caregivers — babysitters, childcare providers, and nannies — carefully and check their references. If you've arranged for someone to pick up your kids from school or daycare, discuss the arrangements beforehand with your kids and with the school or childcare center.
• Avoid dressing your kids in clothing with their names on it — children tend to trust adults who know their names.
More Suggestions From the American Academy of Pediatrics:
• Now You See Them. Young children, with intense curiosity about the world around them and eagerness to explore, can be the ultimate escape artists. When you're shopping, at an amusement park, or otherwise out in a crowd, keep your eyes on your child at all times. If your child is prone to wandering off, it is best if someone in the family keeps constant physical contact, like holding hands.
• At School or Camp. When choosing a school, child care facility, or camp, ask about security measures in and around areas children learn and play. These include secure doors and gates, and policies that ensure only a parent, guardian or someone designated in advance can pick up your child.
• Other Care Providers. When hiring babysitters, , always check multiple references and ask for recommendations from friends and family members. A reliable childcare provider should never leave the children alone in the house or yard--even for a minute.
• Stranger Things. Talk with children about the trusted adults in their life who help keep them safe, and what to do when they encounter someone they don't know. Teach them never to get into a car or go along with someone unfamiliar to them—even if the stranger is asking if they might know the "lost puppy" in their car. Practice with your child to forcefully say "no!" and move away as fast as possible, loudly yelling for help.
• Safe Zone. Your child should know to always tell you about being approached by a stranger―even if someone said they would hurt him or her, or you, if he or she told. Let your child know he or she will not be in trouble, and you will protect him or her from harm.
Three Steps to Avoid Child Abduction Video:
Cook Children's Health Care System
What is an AMBER Alert?
The AMBER Alert is a voluntary partnership involving law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation, and other agencies. During an AMBER Alert, an urgent news bulletin is broadcast over the airwaves, as well as, highway alert signs and a variety of other notification systems to enlist the aid of the public in finding an abducted child and stopping a perpetrator. The following criteria must be met to initiate an AMBER Alert:
1. Law enforcement confirms the child is under 18 years of age.
2. Law enforcement believes the abduction poses a credible threat of immediate danger or serious bodily harm or death to the child.
3. There is sufficient descriptive information about the child, the suspect, and/or the circumstances surrounding the abduction to believe that activation of the alert will help locate the child.
4. A law enforcement agency determines the child is not a runaway and has not been abducted as a result of a family abduction, unless the investigation determines the child is in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death.
What To Do If Your Child Is Abducted
The first few hours are the most critical in missing-child cases. So it's important to contact your local police and give them information about your child right away.
They'll ask you for a recent picture of your child, what your child was wearing, and details about when and where you last saw your child.You can ask that your child's case be entered into the National Crime and Information Center (NCIC). Other clearinghouses such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children ( 843-5678) can offer information and support during your search.
Download Your Free Safety Kit From the Polly Klaas Foundation
Amber Alert, https://ohioamberplan.org/Home/AmberAlertCriteria
Help Prevent Your Child from Going Missing: Safety Tips from the AAP, March 2018, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/all-around/Pages/Preventing-Child-Abductions.aspx
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, https://www.missingkids.org/gethelpnow/isyourchildmissing
Preventing Abductions, May 2018, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/abductions.html
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/events/missing-childrens-day/about-missing-childrens-day