Children cannot look after themselves, so we have to. There should be a program in every home and school that teaches children about safety and protection against abduction and exploitation. As a parent, you must take an active interest in your children. Listen to them, love them unconditionally and help build their self-esteem. Remember that a child molester/murderer prefers lonely, unsupervised kids. Teach your children to be assertive in order to protect themselves against situations or actions that make them feel uncomfortable. Most important, make your home a place of trust and support that meets your child’s needs.
The key to effectively teaching your child about safety is for you, the parent, to be educated. Your children look up to you and the more you know, the safer they will become.
Regardless of the warning to “stay away from strangers”, many children are abducted and exploited every year. Why? Because PREDATORS ARE NOT ALWAYS STRANGERS and can be someone they know: the neighbor next door, a relative, a priest, scout leader, lawyer, doctor, dentist, farmer, policeman, store clerk, counselor, bus driver, mailman, ice cream truck driver, care provider or coach. Your child may even have daily contact with this person and you may not even know them.
Children do not understand the word “stranger”. It misleads them into believing that they should stay away from people who look weird or dress funny. Because of this, it is better to teach your child to be aware of certain kinds of situations rather than certain kinds of individuals. Children can be raised to be friendly and polite, but assertive.
CHILDREN HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY NO. If anyone asks them to do things that make them uncomfortable they can say NO. Teach them to TRUST their instincts. If something feels wrong it probably is. SAY NO!
Children can learn about how to protect themselves from the time they learn to talk. Teach them the facts early. Handle it matter-of-factly and teach it as another life skill. If they are taught properly, they will have no reason to be frightened. They will be confident and assertive little people.
Child abduction is a scary thing to address. It may be hard to look into the eyes of innocence and teach them about something so terrible. Remember, it is better for you to teach them to be safe than for them to learn the hard way, by becoming a victim.
A child can reach adulthood without being a victim of a violent crime. You are a parent, and you have an obligation to arm your children with information that could very well save their lives.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
Many parents ask, ‘what can I do to protect my kids from abduction?’
There are a few simple things you need to know to effectively safeguard your child from abduction.
1. SUPERVISE YOUR CHILDREN! Most children who are abducted are in a situation where there is no parental supervision. There is not always safety in numbers. If you are not in a position to watch your children make them wait until you are.
2. Stress PARENTAL PERMISSION. Teach your children that they need to always ask for your permission before leaving your home, a friend’s home, accepting gifts or money, rides etc. Even when they are with a friend or relative have them call you and ask for permission to leave or accept food. If they practice good habits in everyday life they are more likely to have good habits that will prevent them from falling for a lure.
3. KEEP ACCURATE RECORDS. It is amazing how many parents do not have current photographs of their children. If someone takes your child out without you, make sure they also have a photograph with them. Also keep their fingerprints, accurate description and photograph in a safe, accessible place. Update at least every six months (or more often if necessary).
4. KNOW your child’s friends. Who are their parents? Where do they live? Know names, phone numbers and addresses.
5. Make it CLEAR to your child whose homes they are allowed to go into and play.
6. TEACH your child their phone number and area code. TEACH them their address, including street, town, state and country.
7. SHOW your child how to dial 9-1-1 and the operator. Practice if possible.
8. KNOW where your child is at all times.
9. DON’T let your child go into a public restroom alone. Go into the restroom with them. Stores will gladly make sure a restroom of the opposite sex is clear so you can take your child inside.
10. DON’T leave your child alone in the car, not even for one minute. Not only is this a health hazard, but it is an open invitation for someone to take your child.
11. DON’T put your child’s name (first or last) on clothing, hats, backpacks, toys etc. A child responds to their name and a person using that name will automatically not be thought of as a stranger.
12. DON’T leave your child wondering in the toy section of a store or alone in a mall. If they do get lost or bothered have them go to a cashier for help.
13. TEACH your child that adults ask other adults for help, they don’t ask kids.
14. TEACH your child not to take anything (money, toys, candy etc. From anyone without asking your permission first. Remember, predators are not always strangers, so they need to ALWAYS get your
permission. Someone with good intentions will not mind you knowing about their gift.
15. If your child has to walk to and from school PRACTICE with them. Show them the route they should take and how to walk safely.
16. LISTEN when your child tells you that they don’t want to be with someone. Find out why.
17. NOTICE if someone is paying undue attention to your child.
18. ENCOURAGE parent-child communication without being judgmental or critical. Make yourself available to your child. If you don’t, they may not come to you when they need help.
19. NEVER belittle any fear your child has, real or imaginary.
20. NEVER force your child to hug or kiss a relative or friend if they don’t want to.
21. TELL your children that if anything happens to them you will look for them no matter how long it takes to find them.
22. SET A GOOD EXAMPLE. Practice good habits. Call when you will be late; let your kids know where you are. They are watching you.
PERSONAL INFORMATION TO KEEP ON FILE:
The following information should be kept current and in a safe place:
- Current Photo
- Child’s full name
- Social security number
- Place of birth
- Date of birth
- Hair color & style
- Eye color
- Glasses or contacts
- Birthmarks, scars, tattoos & piercings
- List of broken bones
- Braces or other dental work
- Any other distinguishing features
- Clothing and shoe size
- Favorite hangouts
- Names, addresses and numbers of friends
- This information should be kept current and in a safe, accessible place.
- Always have a current photo of your child on hand. If your child is under age 7, update the photograph twice a year. If your child is over age 7, update the photograph annually.
- Have your child fingerprinted annually between the ages of 2-7.
- Include a few strands of hair, with roots, for DNA samples.
If you have any questions about this information contact the Heidi Search Center Monday – Friday from 9AM – 4PM.