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Preventing Infant Abductions

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police lineIs a new parent, infant abductions (kidnappings) are probably not the first thing on your mind. Unfortunately, your infant could possibly be the first thing on a child abductor’s mind. With all of the preparation that surrounds the arrival of a new baby and the excitement that fills the air, parents may let their guard down and unknowingly create a prime opportunity for a kidnapping. Learning how to keep your baby safe from abduction is a topic worth reviewing before your baby arrives. 

Although an abductor can look like anyone, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has listed the following characteristics of a “typical” abductor:

 
    ! Female of “childbearing” age (range 12 to 50), often overweight.
    ! Most likely compulsive, most often relies on manipulation, lying and deception.
    ! Frequently indicates that she has lost a baby or is incapable of having one.
    ! Often married or cohabitating; companion’s desire for a child or the abductor’s desire to provide her companion with “his” child may be the motivation for the abduction.
    ! Usually lives in the community where the abduction takes place.
    ! Frequently initially visits the nursery and the maternity units at more than one healthcare facility prior to the abduction; asks detailed questions about procedures and the maternity floor layout; frequently uses a fire stairwell for her escape and may also try to abduct from the home setting.
    ! Usually plans the abduction but does not necessarily target a specific Child; frequently seizes any opportunity present.
    ! Frequently impersonates a nurse or other allied healthcare personnel – may obtain hospital scrubs or equipment.
    ! Often becomes familiar with healthcare staff, staff work routines, and victim parents.
    ! Demonstrates a capability to provide “good” care to the baby once the abduction occurs.
 
 
In addition an abductor who abducts from the home setting:
    ! Is more likely to be single while claiming to have a partner.
    ! Often targets a mother whom she may find by visiting healthcare facilities and tries to meet the target family.
    ! Often both plans the abduction and brings a weapon, although the weapon may not be used.
    ! Often impersonates a healthcare or social-services professional when visiting the home.
 
You play a key role in keeping your new baby safe during your hospital stay. Follow these general guidelines:
  • Talk with your nursing staff and inquire about the facility’s infant security protocols.
  • ALWAYS ask staff for identification and ask why and where they are taking your baby. Be sure to look carefully at the staff member’s badge. Most facilities have specific badges for staff members on the Maternal Child Health Unit. If you do not feel comfortable with the identification or the staff member attempting to pick up your baby, call the nursing staff immediately. Be aware that just because someone is wearing scrubs does not mean that they work at the facility or have the authority to transport your baby. These days, hospital scrubs can be bought at Wal-Mart.
  • If your baby is taken for tests, exams, photographs, etc, ask the staff member how long this procedure will take.
  • You and your baby will have ID bands with matching numbers. Be sure the staff is verifying this number with you every time your baby is brought back to your room. Do not take this band off or share your ID band number with anyone. If you lose your ID band, be sure to notify the staff right away.
  • Many facilities will put an infant security alarm on your child. Do not remove this alarm. If it loosens, notify your nursing staff.
  • NEVER leave your baby unattended or alone for any reason. When you need to use the restroom or shower, bring your baby (in the crib) into the bathroom with you so that you can hear and see your baby at all times. Otherwise, call your nursing staff to watch your baby.
  • Keep your baby the furthest point away from the doorway and close to your bed.
The threat of abduction does not only occur during your hospital stay. In fact, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children statistics demonstrate that while 46% of abductions occur in a healthcare facility setting, 40% occur in the home setting and 16% occur in “other” places.
 
Approximately 30% of attempted home abductions occur with violence. To keep your baby safe at home:
  • Avoid posting birth announcements in local newspapers or on the web (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Forums, etc). Abductors can easily track you down even if you did not identify your address. If such announcements are made, ensure that your home address, last name and any other identifying information cannot be linked to the announcement.
  • Avoid putting baby announcements/decorations in your yard. This draws attention to the fact that your baby has been born. 
  • When you get home from your birthing facility, take a colored, close-up photograph of your newborn and write down identifying traits such as hair color, eye color, birth marks etc. (Did You Know: Footprints are an excellent way to confirm a baby’s identity in the event of a kidnapping.)
  • Organizations providing home services should not make unannounced visits to your home. If someone comes to your home and identifies herself as a home health nurse, social worker, hospital baby photographer, etc., DO NOT allow her into your home without properly verifying her identity. It is best to get her contact information so that you can verify her identity and schedule an appointment for a later visit. If home visitation services are provided, be sure that you know the name of the person who will be coming to your home, the company he/she works for and the date and time of the visit. When the person arrives for the appointment, verify this identifying information BEFORE allowing her into your home. (Please note: According to NCMEC, “There have been several cases where an abductor has made initial contact with a mother and infant in the healthcare setting and then subsequently abducted the infant from the family home.”)
  • Do not leave your baby unattended with someone you do not know—this includes new “friends” that you met via social media, at your birthing facility, in a new mom group, at church, etc. 
  • When out and about, keep your baby in your direct line of sight at ALL times and NEVER let anyone that you do not know well hold or watch your infant.
  • NEVER leave your child alone in a vehicle.
Not only is it  important for you as a parent to be aware of these important guidelines, it is important to educate anyone caring for your child on these safety measures so they, too, can keep your child safe.
 
References:
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. For Healthcare Professionals: Guidelines on Prevention of and Response to Infant Abductions. Ninth Edition, 2009. 
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Newborn/Infant Abductions Statistics 1983-2012.
 

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