Mommy Minute
Child Abductions Part Two: Community Counts
By Rachel Greene
Oct 1, 2002 - 5:25:00 PM

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Jenna Skarzenski / Canyon News
LOS ANGELES—When I wrote August's article, "Innocence Lost," I was planning on being done with my "protect our children" tirade. But, I was left with an incomplete feeling in my gut. I thought that there must be something more we parents can do to protect our children. I am certainly not trying to lessen the importance of educating our kids on how to be safe, but realistically, there's only so much a child can be expected to do and to accomplish. Samantha Runnion did everything she was supposed to do. Enough said.

So, my one-piece article on child abductions is now becoming a three-piece series on subjects related to child abductions. The August 2002 article was just one crucial piece of the puzzle on how to keep our children safe, namely by teaching them some techniques to keep themselves safe. This month, I want to get us parents thinking proactively. In addition to teaching our children safety tips, we have to broaden our scope to the community. What can we do?

AMBER ALERT: Most people have become quite aware of the AMBER Alert. If you live in CA, you'd have to be living under a rock to NOT know about it. For those of you who don't know, it is a system set in place for times when a stranger abduction has been confirmed and there are enough details known (suspect description, etc.) to broadcast. These alerts can be compared to a weather alert and are broadcast on radio, TV and even electronic billboards on freeways. If you are in an area that does not have an AMBER plan, your first step would be to contact your local law enforcement agency and speak to the public relations officer. I find it absolutely insane that this program is not in place everywhere in this country. We've seen it work and it is a powerful tool in protecting our children. So, speak up and demand it!

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courtesty of the Amber Alert org.
CODE ADAM: This is a program that was started in 1994, yet is not as well known as the AMBER plan. Basically, stores across the country (Wal-Mart being one of the biggest supporters) have this plan in place for what to do if someone reports a child missing. The stores' employees are trained in Code Adam and it has in fact returned many children to safety. It only costs stores $20 to receive the start-up kit to implement Code Adam and it only takes us parents a minute to ask store managers to get it. More information about both of these programs can be found at missingkids.com or call 1-800-THE-LOST.

ESCAPE SCHOOL: This is a program developed by Bob Stuber and is supported by Dignity Memorial Funeral Providers. Scout troops, school groups, etc. can arrange a presentation by an Escape School instructor free of charge. Children will get some very useful information on how to stay safe as well as what to do if they are abducted. I believe this could be a powerful tool as children will see the techniques demonstrated rather than just hearing about them. To arrange Escape School in your area, go to escapeschool.com/other/instruct.shtml# and click on your state to find a trained instructor to contact.

NEIGHBORHOOD WATCHES AND AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS: When I was growing up, my neighborhood felt safe. Of course, that was at a time when more mothers stayed at home and people just seemed more connected to each other. Groups of kids played outside and you could trust that someone's mom was on the look-out, etc. I think we've lost that sense of safety, and we certainly shouldn't become complacent and trust that our kids will be okay playing outside on their own. Families need to organize neighborhood watches and even go so far as to schedule who will be in charge of watching the children at particular times. We need to be particularly aware of the time from after school until parents get home from work. I can't ever imagine letting my children be latch-key kids, but many people do have their children home from say 3 until 5 or 5:30 on their own. Parents should lobby for after-school programs where children can stay until parents can pick them up. Yes, it would be costly, but aren't our children worth it? Don't leave things to chance. If we parents plan for our children to be cared for when we can't be around, we can help ward off tragedy.

I really hope that those of you who read this article will indeed take action. Our children need protection against the evils of this world and they can't be expected to do it on their own. Next month, I will have more to say on the subject of child abductions with a focus on sex offender registries and stopping child pornography. Please be sure to read it.



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