Keep Your Kids Safe: The 411 On Abduction Prevention

Lambeth Hochwald
·Writer/Editor
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Photo by Cheryl Chan/Getty Images

With the debut of The Missing, a gripping series on Starz that’s a fictional depiction of the utter agony that plagues a couple whose son goes missing, and the fact that this month marks the 30th anniversary of the National Child Safety Council’s  Missing Children Milk Carton Program, it’s never been a better time to remind parents everywhere to do all they can to keep their kids safe. “We don’t want parents to be paranoid, but you also shouldn’t assume an abduction couldn’t happen to your child,” Robert G. Lowery Jr., vice president of the Missing Children Division at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia, tells Yahoo Parenting. Here, Lowery’s 10 tips for protecting your children. After all, kids don’t always recognize when they’re in a dangerous situation:

#1: Stranger danger isn’t the only threat. “When we think of a stranger, that paints the picture of a person in a trench coat in the shadows,” Lowery says. “And, while sometimes a stranger will lure a child, abductions are just as commonly done by someone who knows the child in some way.”

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#2: Listen to your child. “If your child brings you information about someone who has asked him to do something, reached out to him in some way or suggested meeting up, don’t be judgmental or think your child is being melodramatic,” Lowery says. “This is information you should very much take to heart.”

#3: Snap a head-to-toe photo. “If you’re going to an amusement park, sporting event or anywhere with crowds, it’s critical to take a photo of your child first thing in the morning,” Lowery says. “If your child goes missing, the most important things you’ll need are a recent photo and to remember what he or she is wearing. It can be very painful and difficult to remember this when you’re in a point of crisis.” TIP: Don’t forget to include your child’s shoes in the photo. “Often these offenders will take a child and alter his appearance but can rarely find shoes that fit the child,” Lowery adds.

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#4: Know exactly who your child is talking to online. “While the stereotypical abduction is a child being kidnapped on the street, the new offender is luring children online and presenting himself as someone he’s not,” Lowery says. “He’ll convince a child to meet somewhere and will then walk away with your child.” Such is the case for Jasmine Baker, a 12-year-old from Baltimore who was abducted in November. Detectives have said Baker had a history of interacting with men she met while playing Xbox. She was found days later in a house near Raleigh, North Carolina. “If your kids are on social media, know what they’re doing,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to invade their privacy, this is all about keeping them safe.”

#5: Be up on your kids’ BFFs. “Maybe your son is sleeping over at a house where the friend’s mom has a boyfriend,” Lowery says. “There are times we’ve seen a boyfriend of a mother kidnapping a child and we’ve even seen stepmothers and girlfriends abducting children. Again, we don’t want to discourage kids from having sleepovers, but you have to be keenly aware of all the families your child is spending time with.”

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#6: Encourage your kid to stay with the group. “Your job is to teach your child common sense,” Lowery says. “So this means telling your child stays with other kids, not to take a dark route home and to look for a uniformed officer or employee if, for example, he or she gets lost in a store. We always urge kids to look for a mom with children in situations like this. They should ask that person for help contacting their parents.”

#7: Remove your child’s name from her backpack. “Lots of times kids will forget that it’s there and will hear someone call them by name and think that person knows them,” Lowery says. “There have been times when an abductor will tell a child that he is picking your child up and a child can easily be duped that way.”

#8: Teach your child to fight back. “We teach our children to be polite but there’s no room for that in a horrible situation like this,” Lowery says. “Empower your child to kick, scream and fight back as best they can if they feel threatened. We know that the kids who fight back are the ones who are let go.”

#9: If the worst happens, report it ASAP. “If you look down and see that your child isn’t by your side, report this as quickly as possible so law enforcement can get mobilized immediately,” Lowery says. “Call 911 simultaneously while you’re searching even if only a few moments have passed. As a former police officer, I’d rather handle 100 calls than miss that one call.”

#10: Move fast. “Time is the enemy when a child is taken,” Lowery says. “The fact is that if a child is going to be killed, it will happen within the first hours of an abduction.”