It seems the world is less safe for children. I don’t remember hearing constantly about children abducted, hurt, missing or abused when I was younger. Of course, it could seem that way as we are an instant information society, thanks to the media and the handy dandy in-home Internet tool which brings the world to us.
As a former Child Protective Services Investigator, I’ve seen up front and close what children can suffer at the hands of parents/family and caretakers. There are blatant abusers out there, those that enjoy hurting others or who have a need for power and control and those that have distorted thinking and perceptions. There are basically well meaning parent(s) who may be somewhat cognitively or emotionally deficient, those parents who are copying how they were raised and haven’t had good parental role models themselves and parent(s) involved in substance abuse and/or struggling with economics and providing for their children(s) basic needs.
Children are injured and also die as a result of accidents – on our roads and in their homes. They are hurt or killed due to criminal acts by persons outside the home – sometimes someone the parent knows and trusts and sometimes by strangers. Parental and family abductions account for the majority of missing children. Stranger abductions are relatively rare and account for about 24% of abducted children. Most stranger abducted children will have had some kind of contact with the kidnapper in the community.
During 2010, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, (see http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/vc_majorthefts/cac/non-family-abductions), law enforcement entered 692,944 children as missing into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database. The majority of these children were temporarily missing and not abducted.
The FBI's Crimes against Children Unit provides a quick response to all incidents of crimes against children. They established the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) Teams in recognition that the first few hours after a child is abducted are critical.
There is an FBI team here in Tucson, helping search for Isabel (Isa) Celis. I know we are all worried about her.
Being a parent isn’t an easy job. It seems harder today when children are exposed to so much more. But, there is help for worried parents on-line.
On the FBI website you can find the following resources: Innocent Images—Online Child Exploitation Investigations; Office for Victim Assistance; Parents Guide to Internet Safety and Safety Tips for Kids
The Polly Klaus foundation, found on-line at www.pollyklaas.org offers a FREE Child Safety Kit. Another helpful website is http://kidshealth.org. They provide information on preventing child abductions and what to do if your child is missing.
The U.S. Department of Justice provides these tools on their website (see http://www.amberalert.gov): AMBER Alert; Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section; Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Project Safe Childhood
On the U.S. Department of State website (see http://travel.state.gov/abduction/abduction_580.html) find information on International Abductions: Information on Child Abductions
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website (see http://www.missingkids.com) offers: Child Safety Tips; CyberTip Line; International Child Abduction Assistance; and NetSmartz—Online Safety Advice.
Finally, the National Child Identification Program website (see http://www.childidprogram.com) provides information about how you can protect your kids with ID kits.
April is Child Abuse Awareness month. In 2010, Arizona Child Protective Services received more than 35,000 reports of child abuse involving about 54,000 children. According to information maintained by Phoenix Children’s Hospital, more than five U.S. children die as a result of child abuse every day. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported that 70 Arizona children died because of maltreatment in 2010 – over half of them were under one year old.
But, by far, accidents are the number one cause of death for children aged one through eighteen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of children dying by accidents has decreased significantly since 2009. The rate drop is attributed to the use of safety and booster seats.
Even so, every hour, one child dies from injuries incurred in fires, falls, drug overdoses and other accidents. More children are dying from prescription drug overdoses and from suffocation than ever before.
It is everyone’s job to watch over children. Child protection can’t be left just to CPS, or law enforcement or the parent(s). There’s too much at stake. Be alert, be vigilant and don’t be afraid to question, to call law enforcement or CPS with concerns and/or to report something that doesn’t seem right. Remember that old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child.” We are the village and the protectors of the future for all children – yours, mine, theirs, and ours.