It is a parent’s nightmare. To leave their children in one place – school, on the soccer field, or even at home – only to return to find them missing. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 800,000 children are reported missing each year. 204,000 of those cases are classified as child abductions, with minorities making up 65 percent of those reported.
There are three main forms of child abductions. The National Incidence of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children (NISMART) defines them as:
Non-family Abductions – when a non-family member takes a child either by force or threat of bodily harm, or detains the child in an isolated location without parental consent.
Kidnappings – when a stranger abducts a child, detains them without parental consent, transports them 50 miles or more from home, and holds them either for ransom, or with the intent to keep the child permanently.
Family Abductions – when a family member violates custody orders and either takes the child from, or fails to return the child to, the custodial parent. In most cases, the children are taken either out of the state of residence, or, in more frightening cases, out of the country, in an effort to prevent the custodial parent from their parental rights.
Parents who fear their child may be abducted by a non-custodial parent should:
- Respect the other parent’s custody and visitation rights. Anger, frustration and desperation are leading causes of family abductions.
- Attempt to maintain a friendly relationship with your ex-spouse, and his/her family. If abduction does occur, you will need the support of his/her family to bring your child home safely.
- Begin the custody process immediately. You cannot prove your custodial rights without a custody order.
- Include abduction prevention measure in the custody order.
- Read more tips on our blog Parental Abductions: How to Protect Your Child and Yourself
So what can you do to keep your children safe?
- Talk to your children about strangers. Tell them they should never to go anywhere with someone they don’t know. Role play may be necessary to help them understand the severity of the situation.
- Show them various places in your neighborhood and around their school where they can go for help.
- Take a photograph of your child and collect their vital statistics. You should update this information every six months.
- Collect your child’s DNA. Read our article, How To Be Your Own CSI: Collecting Your Child’s DNA, for step-by-step instructions.
Communication is a powerful tool. Sharing this information with your children, other parents, teachers, and the community will help prevent all of our children from becoming one of the missing.
Photo credit: Robin McPherson from Pexels