Of all the questions that cross parents’ minds when they hear about child abductions, the most common question may be how can I stop this from happening to my child?
Some parents try to protect their kids by teaching them about “stranger danger”– but most child abductions involve a relative or someone the child knows.
Parents should learn when and where children may be at risk of abduction. They should also teach kids about these situations and what to do if they occur. This helps prepare children to act even if the risk of abduction is from someone they know.
Family abductions occur when relatives break legal custody agreements by keeping kids from their legal guardians. Family abductions usually involve parents taking their children. An abduction may be more likely to occur if a parent has:
- Threatened to abduct or previously abducted the child
- No strong ties to the child's home state, but ties to friends and family living in another state/country
- Engaged in planning activities (e.g., selling a home, securing records)
- A history of marital issues
- A history of domestic violence or child abuse
Learn more about the warning signs of family abductions and what you can do to protect your kids. Remember, these warning signs don’t mean an abduction will happen. Also, abductions can occur without any of these warning signs appearing.
Parents should learn when and where kids are most vulnerable in order to better protect them. In an analysis of attempted abductions, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® found that many:
- Involved a suspect driving a vehicle
- Occurred between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
- Occurred when the child was traveling to or away from school
- Involved girls and children between the ages of 10 and 14
NCMEC’s review revealed one extremely important fact: 70% of children who escaped their would-be abductors did something proactive. They walked/ran away, yelled, kicked, or pulled away.
This means the best thing a child can do if someone tries to abduct them is take action instead of being passive or polite.
Use this information to set up a safety plan for your kids – and don’t forget to include teens in these conversations! You can:
- Point out places they can go for help when walking places like school and the park.
- Remind them to travel and stay with a group.
- Warn them about accepting rides or changing plans without your permission.
- Teach them the tricks would-be abductors use, such as offering money or asking for help.
- Encourage them to tell a trusted adult whenever anything or anyone makes them uncomfortable.
When it comes to keeping your child safe, YOU are your child’s best resource!