Child Abduction Information | Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines

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Information About Child Abduction

The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, and Runaway/Thrownaway Children defines a missing child in two different ways, Caretaker Missing and Reported Missing. Caretaker Missing occurs in the following situations:

  • A child's whereabouts are unknown to the primary caretaker
  • At least one hour of a state of alarm is experienced by the primary caretaker
  • The caretaker attempted to locate the child

"Reported Missing" occurs when, in addition to the above Caretaker Missing points, the caretaker contacts law enforcement or a missing children's agency to locate the child.

There are five episode types into which missing child cases are categorized according to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, and Runaway/Thrownaway Children:

  1. Nonfamily abduction
  2. Family abduction
  3. Runaway/thrownaway
  4. Missing involuntary, lost, or injured
  5. Missing benign explanation

The category of nonfamily abduction describes what is considered a stereotypical kidnapping. According to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, and Runaway/Thrownaway Children, in 2016 an estimated 205 children were victims of this type of child abduction.

Child abduction by a stranger may be the primary focus of personal safety conversations that parents have with their children; for some it may be the only matter discussed. This is understandable given the frightening nature of this child safety issue. However, children who are only prepared for being approached by someone who they don't know are ill-equipped in the area of personal safety. It is crucial for parents to know children are far more often hurt, assaulted, abused, and violated by someone known to them. Additionally, children need to understand that unsafe situations can happen with people who they know and trust.

Safety conversations should focus on what children should do if they are faced with an unsafe situation. This proactive approach is empowering. Conversations that tell children what they should not do (Don'ts) are limiting. "Stranger Danger" messages instructing children not to talk to strangers have not been found to be effective.

Safety planning with your child does not have to be complicated or daunting. Family rules promoting personal safety and well-being that are basic and apply to all family members can be established and reviewed frequently. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers Take25 and Know the Rules programs for parents.

Learn more from the National Center Missing & Exploited Children