Preventing child abduction with home security

Whether in a crowded mall or a quiet street, the risk of abduction is a very real threat to any child. For parents, the idea that someone could or would snatch a child is enough to fill them with a sense of dread and worry for the safety of their own children. An abductor can be a stranger, a non-family member who is acquainted with the child or family, or even a family member. While awareness is the first step in preventing one's child from becoming a victim, there are more active ways that parents can help keep their loved ones safe from harm. It is important that they not only educate themselves on how to keep their kids safe, but to also educate their children as well. This will give kids the knowledge and the skills needed to avoid danger, protect themselves, and get the help that they need when and if it is necessary.

The Reality of Child Abductions

In the most recent missing children statistics taken by the Department of Justice, there were 1,315,600 children who went missing in a one-year period. This number included not only abductions, but also runaway and "throwaway" children, and involuntarily lost children. Of the 1,315,500 children who went missing, only 797,500 of these were reported to the police or the appropriate authority. Also of the 1,315,500 missing children, 58,000 were abducted by non-family members, 203,900 were family abductions, and 1,682,900 of these cases were children who hadn't been abducted but were runaway/throwaway children. Another 198,300 of these children were lost. The study also further explored gender and age. Of children missing, 57 percent were males and 43 percent female. Older children between the ages of 15 and 17 were more likely to be missing than younger children. Children in the 15 to 17 age group made up 45 percent of missing children, 31 percent of missing children were 12 to 14 years old, 13 percent between 6 years old and 11, and children 0 to 5 years old made up 11 percent of missing children.

Tips for Preventing Abductions

In preventing abduction, it is important to reduce or eliminate any open opportunities for someone to snatch or lure a child away from his or her parents. When in public, crowded places, hold the hands of small children to ensure that they do not wander out of sight. Parents should never leave their children unattended in public locations or allow them to wander off on their own. It is important to talk to both children and teens about strangers and the threat that they represent. Children should be told to never talk to strangers or go anywhere with them without direct permission from their parents. Older kids should have boundaries regarding where they can go by themselves and when. It is also important to tell children what to do if a person approaches them or attempts to lure them into a vehicle, building, park, etc. Keep names off of visible areas on backpacks or jackets. This prevents predators from knowing the name of potential victims. When called by name, children may feel comfortable that the person calling is someone who knows them or their parents and may mistakenly take them as someone who is safe. Kids who walk home alone can be given a whistle to blow if frightened, and should know safe locations to run to if followed by a potential abductor. In homes, the installation of a security alarm system can prevent an intruder from actually entering a home.

Choosing Caregivers

Inevitably, there are times when parents need to leave their kids in the care of others. This can be a childcare provider or a babysitter. When selecting a caregiver it is important to choose a person who can be trusted to care for the health and safety of the children in their care. The first step in choosing someone is to verify that the individual is clean in terms of drugs or alcohol, and that there is no history of child molestation or violence against children. A caregiver should have good references and be someone who enjoys being with children. Additionally, the children in question should be comfortable with the person who is being considered. Whenever a new childcare provider is hired to pick up children from school, parents should talk with teachers and staff to ensure that they are aware that someone new will be picking up the child. A name should be given and a description so that the school knows who to expect. If selecting a daycare center, visit the facility and check that it is clean and secure. The staff should be friendly and treat the children with care and kindness.

Online Safety

The Internet is yet another way that parents need to protect their kids from danger, including childhood abduction. A first step in homes with desktop computers is to place them in a location that is open and where parents can easily see the screen. Kids must be made aware of the potential dangers that the Internet represents. When talking with their kids about these dangers, parents will want to warn them about posting or sharing personal information such as their address, phone number, school, or anything that can help potential criminals locate them. Parents will also want to warn kids about chat rooms and social networks, where adults may pretend to be children in order to get close to and potentially abduct and hurt them.

Safety Tips for Kids Staying Home Alone

The decision to allow a child to stay at home alone is a big one. When contemplating the idea of allowing a child to stay home alone, parents should take the child's age into consideration and his or her level of maturity. A child needs to be an appropriate age when left at home. Most states do not define what this age should be; however, some states such as Illinois actually do have a minimum age for children who are allowed to stay home alone. For that reason, parents should check with their local CPS for guidelines and laws in their state before leaving their children without adult supervision. Even if a child is of an appropriate age, it doesn't mean that he or she is mature or responsible enough to be left alone. Parents will also need to consider the neighborhood that they live in and whether or not it is safe for a child. Once it has been established that a child is capable of staying home alone, parents should establish rules and guidelines such as never opening doors, how to answer phone calls, and never telling anyone that they are home alone. Kids should also have limits and rules regarding the use of electronics, including the computer and television. In the event of an emergency, parents will want to ensure that any child who is left unattended knows how to call 911 and knows who in the neighborhood is safe to turn to. A short trial run is a smart way to ensure that the child is comfortable and capable of being left alone. On days when kids are at home by themselves, parents should check home regularly or have a trusted friend or neighbor check on the child.

What to do if Your Child is Missing

Time, and what parents or caregivers do with it, is critical when a child has been abducted. Once a child is missing, law enforcement should be contacted and given vital information including a description of what the child looks like, including height and weight, clothing and any accessories that he or she may be wearing. Parents must be certain to mention where the child was last seen, and describe features or items such as braces, birth marks, etc. They will also want to request the entry of their child's I.D. number and name into the National Crime Information Center Missing Person File that is maintained by the FBI. Prior to contacting the police however, parents should look in all of the places that the child is known to play and/or hide in. Once this is done and the police have been called, also contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children using their toll free number 1-800-THE-LOST. Parents will also want to locate recent photos for both the police and the media.

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