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Child Safety – Is YOUR child protected?
by Kimberly Vetrano
It's a parent's worst nightmare. You are with your family in a crowded store. You turn for just one moment to look at something then turn back to realize your child is not beside you. Your heart feels like it's stopping while terror takes over your body. Thankfully your child is just a few feet away and everything is fine again. Sadly, for thousands of families each year this story does not have a happy ending.

* The F.B.I. receives on average 2,000 missing children reports each day. In the United States a child goes missing every 40 seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And according to the US Department of Justice and the World Almanac the chances of a child of being abducted at 1 in 42.

These statistics are not to scare you, but rather to express upon all parents and caregivers the importance of teaching your children how to stay safe and properly identified in the event they are missing or abducted. Most people make sure that they have an identification tag for their pets, but never consider the importance of having identification for their own children.

So what can parents and caregivers do to protect their children? It is very important to have proper identification for your children available in case a child goes missing or is abducted. It is also important to have a current picture of your child, their fingerprints and a DNA sample. There is a new product available now that will allow you to have your child's teeth prints preserved since dental records are often used for identification. According to Peter Banks, Director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, when tooth prints are taken sufficient proteins in the saliva remain on the wafer from which a DNA test can be successfully performed for yet a second means of identification from the tooth prints. Such products are readily available and inexpensive. All children should have proper identification on record for safekeeping and updated each year.

Another critical thing that parents and caregivers can do to protect their children is to make sure their children always wear some type of discreet identification. T-shirts with a child's name on it or a name tag on their jacket makes them an easy target for the would-be child abductor. Instead, parents should utilize non-obvious forms of identification on their children such as a Child ID Scope and identification bracelets where your child's name and your contact information is printed on the inside of the bracelet so that it is not easily seen by others.

Other important tips parents and caregivers can use to help protect their children:

  • Never allow children to go anywhere without telling you first.

  • Make sure you know exactly what your child is wearing each day. Take a mental note of their shoes, shirt, pants and anything else they might be wearing so you can recall it if needed. You can make a game of it as well. See if your child can also recall what you have on. Then, if your child should become separated from you, they can tell someone what color your jacket is or what color dress you have on.

  • Go over the rules about strangers with your children whenever they leave the house. Such "rules" would include never talking to strangers unless it is someone who is trying to help them such as a police officer or store employee. Remind your child to keep a safe distance from strangers and, in the event a stranger tries to grab hold of them, your child should shout at the top of their lungs "Help! You are not my Mommy/Daddy". It is also important to teach your children not to fall for the typical "lures" that abductors use such as helping them to locate a lost pet or child.

  • Should your child become separated from you, teach your children to remain in one spot and not to wander around. Tell them that you will come and find them by back tracking where you were. You can also point out store employees to your children so that your children know they can tell them that they are lost and need help locating you.

  • If your child should get lost from you and cannot locate a police officer or uniformed employee, instruct your child to seek out a mother with children rather then someone who is alone. Mothers are more likely to help out a young child.

  • Teach your children to trust their intuition. If they feel uncomfortable about a person or situation, your child should feel that they could talk to you about these feelings. Always listen to what your child has to say and never just dismiss anything without finding out "why".

  • Create a special "code word" that only you and your children know. Do not share this code word with anyone unless they need to know. Teach your children that they are not to go with anyone, no matter what they say (such as "Mommy wanted me to come and get you.") unless that person can give them the secret "code word". If that person does not know the code word then instruct your child to run away as fast as they can.

If you discover your child missing, try not to panic. First, check all around you to make sure that your child has just not wandered off. If you still do not find your child then go ahead and call the police immediately. There is no waiting period to report a missing child. Make sure you can describe what your child was wearing, where they were last seen, and hand over important documents to the police such as your child's current photo, finger prints and DNA samples. Request that they enter your child's information in the National Crime Information Center Missing Person File (NCIC). You can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST and request to have your child's information entered into their database.

Your child's safety should be your number one priority. With a few simple steps you can help protect your child. Your child does not have to become a statistic. With some common sense and a serious approach to their safety, you can help protect your child from becoming a victim. Make sure you approach this subject with your children in a non-threatening manner. The key is to teach your children how to keep safe; you don't want to alarm them or make them fearful.

*National statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

© 2004 Kimberly Vetrano is the owner of FUNtastic Letters & Wraps and specializes in Child Safety ID Products, educational books and other family related products and services.

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