The first few hours are critical. These shocking statistics tell the cold, hard truth: 90% of all children abducted by strangers are sexually assaulted, then released by their abductor. Less than 3% of abducted children are murdered. However, a Washington State study of 621 stranger abductions that ended in murder showed that 74% of the children were killed within the first 24 hours.
If Your Child is Missing
- Immediately call 911 or go to your local law enforcement agency (police or sheriff) and file a missing person report. When a child is missing and believed to be in danger, there is no waiting period for filing a report.
- Have the most recent color photograph of the child, along with the child's hair sample, blood type, and physical description including a description of the clothes the child was wearing.
Click Here for more information about Amber Alert Plan criteria.
- Information about your missing child will be entered into the National Crime Information Center computer's Missing Person File (NCIC-MPF).
- Report the child missing to the toll-free hotline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-843-5678. The National Center can issue e-mail alerts about your missing child, distribute posters with your child's photo and information nationwide, and provide support and other resources for you and your family.
- Contact other non-profit missing child organizations and state clearinghouses in adjacent states. Register your missing child and find out what other search assistance and support services they can provide.
- Contact the U.S. State Department's Passport Office (Office of Citizen Appeals and Legal Assistance, Passport Services) at 202-647-0518 / 877-487-2778 in case the suspect tries to apply for a passport to leave the country with your child.
- Be sensitive to changes in your children's behavior; they are a signal that you should sit down and talk to your children about what caused the changes.
Child Safety Tips to Prevent Abductions
- Teach your children their full names, addresses and phone numbers.
- Teach your children how to make a long distance call (both directly to you using the area code and by dialing "0" for the operator).
- Know your neighbors and your child's friends, including their names, addresses and telephone numbers.
- Be alert to a teenager or adult who is paying an unusual amount of attention to your children or giving them inappropriate or expensive gifts.
- Know the routes your child takes to and from school, friends' homes and other activities.
- Be involved in your child's activities by volunteering at school, clubs, and sporting events - participate in a neighborhood watch program.
- Before leaving your child in the care of a day-care, pre-school, baby sitter, or youth organization, check their references and qualifications. Ask if criminal background checks are conducted before new staff members are hired.
- Review the web sites of Missing Child Organizations for volunteer opportunities, such as e-mailing or distributing posters of missing children.
- Teach your child what to do if approached by a stranger. Common uses are offering a ride, gifts or candy, asking the child to help them look for a lost dog or cat, or claiming that the child's parent has asked them to bring the child home because of an emergency.
- Teach your children to trust their own feelings and assure them that they have the right to say no to what they sense is wrong.
- Listen to your child; don't disregard their fears. Instead, let them know that you take their fears and concerns seriously.
Basic Rules of Safety for Children
As soon as your children can articulate a sentence, they can begin the process of learning how to protect themselves against abduction and exploitation.
- 1Children should be taught if you are in a public place and you get separated from your patents, don't wander around looking for them. Go to a checkout counter, the security office, or the lost and found and quickly tell the person in charge that you have lost your mom and dad and need help finding them.
- You should not get into a car or go anywhere with any person unless your parents have told you that it is okay.
- If someone follows you on foot or in a car, stay away from him or her. You should not get close to any car, unless your parent or a trusted adult accompanies you.
- Grownups and others who need help should not be asking children for help; they should be asking older people.
- No one should be asking you for directions or to look for a "lost puppy" or telling you that your mother or father is in trouble and that he or she will take you to them.
- If someone tries to take you somewhere, quickly get away from him (or her) and yell or scream. "This man (woman) is trying to take me away" or "this person is not my father (mother)."
- You should try to take a friend with you, and never go places alone.
- Always ask your parents' permission to leave the yard or play area or to go into someone's home.
- Never hitchhike or try to get a ride home with anyone unless your parents have told you it is okay to ride with him or her.
- No one should touch you in the parts of the body that would be covered by a bathing suit, nor should you touch anyone else in those areas. Your body is special and private.
- You can be assertive and you have the right to say no to someone who tries to take you somewhere, touches you, or makes you feel uncomfortable, scared or confused in anyway.
My 8 Rules for Safety
Traditional messages of "Don't take candy from strangers," "Don't be a tattletale," and "Be respectful to adults, they know what they're doing" are incomplete and can lead to the abduction and sexual victimization of children. Children and families do not have to live in fear of these crimes, but they do need to be alert, cautious, and prepared. The key to child safety is communication. A child's best weapon against victimization is his or her ability to think and preparation to respond to potentially dangerous situations. By learning and following these 8 Rues for Safety, children can empower themselves with the skills, knowledge, and abilities to better protect themselves.
- Before I go anywhere, I always check first with my parents or the person in charge. I tell them where I am going, how I will get there, who will be going with me, and when I'll be back.
- I check first for permission from my parents before getting into a car or leaving with anyone - even someone I know. I check first before changing plans or accepting money, gifts, or drugs without my parents' knowledge.
- It is safer for me to be with other people when going places or playing outside. I always use the "buddy system."
- I say NO if someone tries to touch me in ways that make me feel frightened, uncomfortable, or confused. Then I go and tell a grown-up I trust what happened.
- I know it is not my fault if someone touches me in a way that is not O.K. I don't have to keep secrets about those touches.
- I trust my feelings and talk to grown-ups about problems that are too big for me to handle on my own. A lot of people care about me and will listen and believe me. I am not alone.
- It is never too late to ask for help. I can keep asking until I get the help I need.
- I am a special person, and I deserve to feel safe. My rules are:
- CHECK FIRST
- USE THE "BUDDY SYSTEM"
- SAY NO, THEN GO AND TELL
- LISTEN TO MY FEELINGS, AND TALK WITH GROWN-UPS I TRUST ABOUT MY PROBLEMS AND CONCERNS.
- Keep current identification on each child (such as a recent photo, video, hair sample, blood type, identifying marks, and physical description) in a safe accessible place.
- Know how to obtain your child's dental x-rays and medical records.