Part III

Missing Children: Understanding the Crisis 

Kidnap Proofing Your Children

            There are a number of steps that can be taken to help reduce the risks of child abduction.   Children are generally more trusting than adults and it is this quality that can often get a child into trouble.  It is important that parents not only teach their children primary steps, but that they constantly and continually reinforce this message as the child grows to maturity.

1.   Teach your children to stay away from strangers.  They should think of strangers as anyone you (a parent) don't know, even if they have seen the person before.

Caution:  Children do not consider a person a 'stranger' the same way that an adult would. 

2.   Grownups, especially strangers, should not ask children to do things that they should do for themselves.  If someone asks a child for help, the child should immediately seek parental permission. A common ruse is to ask a child for help in locating a lost dog or cat.

3.   If a child gets lost or separated from their parents in a park or store, they should not go looking for help.  They should stay put until someone can help them.

      A child should ask for a parent's permission before:

         Going anywhere with anybody

         Leaving the yard, play area, or going into somebody's home

         Catching a ride home with someone

         Getting into a car and leaving with someone, including a person the child knows!

      Once a child gets the parent's permission, they should:

         Tell them where they are going

         Tell them how they will get there 

         Tell them who will be going with them

         Tell them when they will be back

         The child should always get back on time or call

4.   When in a public place, a child should always use the buddy system.

5.   A child should never accept money, gifts, or treats without parental permission.

6.   If someone follows a child, the child should stay away from that person or that person's car and report this activity as soon as possible to a parent and police.

7.      If someone tries to take a child by force, they should try to get away and yell or scream:

         This man is trying to take me away:

         He/She is not my father! (or mother)!

A method of kidnapping that has been successful in the past is for someone to approach a child and tell them that their mother or father has been injured in an automobile accident and that person has been requested to take the child to the hospital.

Have your children fingerprinted by the local police and keep the prints where they are easily accessible in case your child is kidnapped or missing.

Parent Role In Preventing Kidnapping:

            There are many steps that a parent can take to prevent a kidnapping.  These are just a few of the protective steps that you can take:

    Make certain that outside doors, windows and screens are securely locked at night.

    Keep the door to the child’s room open so that any unusual noises may be heard.

    Be certain that the child’s room is not readily accessible from the outside.

    Never leave young children at home alone or unattended.  Be certain that they are left in the care of a responsible, trustworthy person.

    Instruct children to never let a stranger in.

    Teach children to call the police if strangers or prowlers hang around the house or attempt to get in.

    Keep residence well lit if it is necessary to leave children at home.

    Avoid obvious signs that you are not at home.  Opened garage doors, newspapers left outside the house, etc., are obvious indications that you are away from home.

    Instruct servants not to let strangers in the house.

    Do not discuss family finances or routines.  Kidnappers often have their victims under surveillance for several days prior to the abduction so they know the family’s habits.

Other preventive measures:

    Get to know the families of your child’s friends.

    Have your child use a buddy system.  Do not allow them to walk or ride their bike alone.

    Do not allow your child to hitchhike.

    Have a secret word known only to family members in the event of an emergency.  If someone unknown to yourchild tries to pick them up, they should know the secret word.

    Encourage your child to walk away from strangers or strange vehicles!


Joseph A. Kinney is a pioneering leader, author, and researcher who has received numerous national awards for contributions to forging a safer and more productive world. Joseph is President of Safe Spaces, Inc. (


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