Keep Your Children Safe

Do your children know what to do if a stranger tries to lure them away?

Ask your child what he or she will do if someone is nice and offers some candy. Will you go with someone who needs help looking for their lost puppy?

Although many children know what to do. many others don't.

Children are not the only ones who don't know. Do you know how to protect your child? Would you know how to find your child if he is missing?

There are 3 reasons children become lost. Some may have simply wandered away, accidentally remaining gone longer than they meant to. Are there any parents who haven't experienced that panic.

Other children may leave voluntarily, run away.

But still others are abducted by someone.

Children, even older children and teenagers, don't have the judgement and experience of adults. So, it's up to us parents to take precautions to ensure the safety of our children.

Don't close your eyes to the danger. There really are people out there who want your children. The motive is usually sexual. Rarely are children taken because the kidnapper wants to love and care for the child. This is especially true of those who take in runaways. They offer what the teen wants, attention, acceptance, money, clothes but not without getting what they want in return.

One hundred and fifty thousand children are kidnapped each year (two thirds by estranged parents) in the United States.

Don't think it is only the "stranger in the park", you need to be cautious about people you and your child already know. The vast majority of child abuse is by someone the child already trusts, a relative, neighbor, even a teacher or someone else in authority. Know who your child's friends are. A child molester or a kidnapper is often someone you know.

You've warned your child of strangers. But is your idea of a stranger the same as your child's? Does your child have friends you don't know? You may consider them strangers, but does your child? Take an interest, are there adults or even older children who greet your child regularly, perhaps on the route to school. Your child may consider this no longer a stranger.

It is necessary to talk to your child about this. Don't make the child paranoid, afraid of every new person he sees, but don't put off the discussion. Repeat in frequently. It is a reasonable precaution. Child abduction does happen.

  • When in public, always keep your young child in sight.
  • Never leave very young children unattended.
  • Know your babysitter.
  • Never send a young child out alone at night to run an errand or purchase some item you need.
  • Never leave young children in game areas in stores or shopping centers while you go shopping, or alone in an automobile-especially one that has the key in the ignition or the engine left running-while you attend to some business.

Some families use a special code word. Choose a word that is known only to family members. Some kidnappers, especially non-custodial parents, will tell a child they were sent by his father or that they must come home because their mother is sick. Your child could then ask for the family code word, if the person doesn't know it, then the child would refuse to go with him.

A child should know that, although he should be polite and respectful to adults, he has a perfect right to say, "No" and not to do anything that makes him frightened or uncomfortable, or that is contrary to his parents' instructions. A child should be taught that he does not have to obey all adults.

Talk to your children. Listen. Are there signals? Has your child had a change in mood, in temperament. Does he want to isolate himself? Has he become secretive? Does he talk less to you? Even different sleeping patterns and a loss of appetite can be a sign. And if a child talks about running away, listen!

    When a Child Is Missing
    What can you do if your child is missing?
  • First, don't panic.
  • Make a brief, reasonable search. Is he really missing. Check your home, his school, his close friends, neighbors.
  • Then immediately report the situation to your local law-enforcement agency, giving them all the information you can. If there is a special missing persons or runaway divisions where your live, make sure they informed as well.
  • Spread the word to all your child's friends and relatives. Perhaps your child will get in touch with them, or they may already know something.

Sometimes the difference in finding a missing child depends on how many people know and are looking for the child. How many are allerted. Success in finding a missing child often depends on publicity-how many people know about it and are keeping an eye open for the child.

In some areas there are special agencies with telephone hot lines for missing persons. In the United States the case can now be included in the FBI-operated NCIC (National Crime Information Center) computer with nationwide availability.

Make sure you have accurate and current information on your child. A search can be made even more difficult without a good recent photograph.

How parents treat the returning child is essential. Some react by scolding or punishing the child severely. Others react with silence, acting as if the incident never happened. There must have been something going on, either in the home or outside to cause the child to run. If tensions and misunderstandings persist or even increase, the child will continue to run away. Professional help may be needed here.

    Teach Your Young Children
  • Always to take the same-and safest-route to and from school each day
  • Use the "buddy" system. Always to be with a friend when they play, go to a store or movie-and not to go off alone
  • Do not to let strangers touch them; do not to accept money or candy from strangers
  • Never go along with or accept rides from someone they do not know
  • Scream for help if a stranger tries to take them by force
  • Report any unusual or scary incidents to parents or teachers
  • Teach even young children how to use the telephone if they need help. (Do they know their own number, their full name and where they live?)

This inexpensive kit can make preparing easier
    Be Prepared
    It isn't likely your child will be abducted or run away, these precautions make it easier to get your child back.
  • Take a clear, sharp, full-face photo of each child at least once a year.
      On the back of the photo note the following current information for each child:
    • Age
    • Height and weight
    • Hair and eye colors
    • Clothing and shoe sizes
    • Any distinguishing body marks
    • Date picture was taken
  • Know where each child's medical and dental X rays and records can be located. Obtain these before they are destroyed or you move to a distant location.
  • Keep an up-to-date record of any medicines a child needs and what the effects will be if not taken.
  • Take fingerprints of your child for positive identification in case of foul play or hidden identity. Fingerprinting each member of the family at the same time can allay a child's fear and such identification is useful to have.
  • Walk with your children to school or the bus stop. Point out areas that might not be safe. Play a game called "What if" by using pretend situations to help them decide how to react in a real emergency. Show them which houses they should go to if they need help.
  • Don't let your children go to a shopping center by themselves.
  • Your children should avoid public restrooms unless they are with a trusted adult.
  • If your children should become lost inside a store or shopping center, tell them to go to a nearby clerk or security guard for help.
  • It's best not to let your children wear clothing or carry articles with their names on them. A stranger may pretend to know them by calling their name and acting like a friend.

text, photos and site design by Carla Robertson