Keeping Our Kids Safe: National Missing Children’s Day and More

24 May

Etan Patz

My stomach stayed clenched the entire time was researching and writing a magazine piece last week on after-school safety.  One child is abducted every 40 seconds in the United States.  The nationwide Amber Alert program was named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old Arlington resident who was abducted off her bicycle in broad daylight in 1996 and murdered.  It’s the stuff of parental nightmares, causing the kind of imagined pain that actually hurts.

Fortunately, law enforcement officers, social workers, child advocates and teachers around the Metroplex continue doing heroic work in educating kids and their parents about the dangers.  Tomorrow—May 25—is National Missing Children’s Day.  Here is some crucial info for you and your family:

What Parents Can Do To Keep Children Safe

Every year in America an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing, more than 2,000 children each day.  Of that number, 58,000 are abducted by non-family members.  The primary motive for non-family abductions is sexual.  Each year 115 children are the victims of the most serious abductions, taken by non-family members and either murdered, held for ransom, or taken with the intent to keep.

“We know teaching children about safety works,” said Ernie Allen, president and CEO of NCMEC.  “It is important that parents take the time to talk to their children about safety.”

An analysis of attempted abduction cases by NCMEC found that in 82% of the cases, children escaped would-be abductors through their own actions, by yelling, kicking, pulling away, running away or attracting attention.

May 25th is the anniversary of the day in 1979 when 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York street corner on his way to school and has been observed as National Missing Children’s Day since 1983 when it was first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan.  Etan’s story captivated the nation.  His photo, taken by his father, a professional photographer was circulated nationwide and appeared in media across the country and around the world.  The powerful image of Etan has come to symbolize the anguish and trauma of thousands of searching families.  The search for Etan continues.  He is still missing.

Safety Tips for Your Kids

At Home

1.      Teach your children their full names, address, and home telephone number. Make sure they know your full name.

2.      Make sure your children know how to reach you at work or on your cell phone.

3.      Teach your children how and when to use 911 and make sure your children have a trusted adult to call if they’re scared or have an emergency.

4.      Instruct children to keep the door locked and not to open the door to talk to anyone when they are home alone. Set rules with your children about having visitors over when you’re not home and how to answer the telephone.

5.      Choose babysitters with care. Obtain references from family, friends, and neighbors. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask children how the experience with the caregiver was and listen carefully to their responses.

On the Net

6.      Learn about the Internet. The more you know about how the Web works, the better prepared you are to teach your children about potential risks. Visit http://www.NetSmartz.org for more information about Internet safety.

7.      Place the family computer in a common area, rather than a child’s bedroom. Also, monitor their time spent online and the websites they’ve visited and establish rules for Internet use.

8.      Know what other access your child may have to the Internet at school, libraries, or friends’ homes.

9.      Use privacy settings on social networking sites to limit contact with unknown users and make sure screen names don’t reveal too much about your children.

10.  Encourage your children to tell you if anything they encounter online makes them feel sad, scared, or confused.

11.  Caution children not to post revealing information or inappropriate photos of themselves or their friends online.

At School

12.  Walk the route to and from school with your children, pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they’re being followed or need help. If your children ride a bus, visit the bus stop with them to make sure they know which bus to take.

13.  Remind kids to take a friend whenever they walk or bike to school. Remind them to stay with a group if they’re waiting at the bus stop.

14.  Caution children never to accept a ride from anyone unless you have told them it is OK to do so in each instance.

Out and About

15.  Take your children on a walking tour of the neighborhood and tell them whose homes they may visit without you.

16.  Remind your children it’s OK to say NO to anything that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused and teach your children to tell you if anything or anyone makes them feel this way.

17.  Teach your children to ask permission before leaving home.

18.  Remind your children not to walk or play alone outside.

19.  Teach your children to never approach a vehicle, occupied or not, unless they know the owner and are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult.

20.  Practice “what if” situations and ask your children how they would respond. “What if you fell off your bike and you needed help? Who would you ask?”

21.  Teach your children to check in with you if there is a change of plans.

22.  During family outings, establish a central, easy-to-locate spot to meet for check-ins or should you get separated.

23.  Teach your children how to locate help at theme parks, sports stadiums, shopping malls, and other public places. Also, identify those people who they can ask for help, such as uniformed law enforcement, security guards and store clerks with nametags.

24.  Help your children learn to recognize and avoid potential risks, so that they can deal with them if they happen.

25.  Teach your children that if anyone tries to grab them, they should make a scene and make every effort to get away by kicking, screaming, and resisting.

For more info, visit www.missingkids.com.

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2 Responses to “Keeping Our Kids Safe: National Missing Children’s Day and More”

  1. anne May 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    This is nauseating, but necessary. My three year old knows that if gets lost he can ask for help from #1 a Mom with kids, #2 a Grandma with kids, #3 a police officer/fireman in uniform, #4 a Dad with kids, NEVER a Dad without kids (I told him b/c they don’t know how to take care of kids and sometimes are mean to kids)… I mean, he has all this memorized, and we practice it. I want to barf every time.

    He knows 911, and he knows it’s not for pretend, but he knows I will never be mad and the policeman will never be mad if he calls 911 because he is scared so just do it.

    He knows his name, our names, our street name and that we live right by Fiesta. He can’t memorize phone numbers yet.

    And I guess I will just have to glue my 2 year old daughter to him, so she will be safe until she can remember this stuff, too.

    I looked for books at our library about this stuff, and didn’t find any for our age. That is a shame. I have been winging it. I am glad to have this brought up on More than Mothers, and look forward to hearing what other Moms have to share.

  2. Lisa May 24, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    Thank you, Anne. It IS nauseating. I worry about our non-verbal daughter with autism. We have her wear an ID bracelet with her name, our home phone and her diagnosis. She is heavily shadowed at school. Still, the reality is we’re all vulnerable if someone is intent on doing us harm.

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