Child Abductions: Causation And Prevention

What is the general causation of child abduction?  According to research they are the most rare of crimes involving children, especially amongst the very young:

Stealing a baby, one of the most distressing crimes, is rare. Of all “violent offences against the person” recorded by the Home Office, only about 0.08% – about 120 a year – come under the category of child abduction.[1] This term also covers two other offences: abduction by a parent – as in a custody dispute – and abduction of an older child, often by a man with a sexual motive.[2] Compared with other offences, the stealing of young children is unusual in that those who carry it out are almost always women who show evidence of mental disturbance.[3 4] Despite this psychiatric context and the attention that each case attracts,[5] the subject is virtually untouched by research. Little is therefore known about the mental state of those who commit the offence and less about the crucial mediocolegal questions of disposal, outcome, and repetition.
Appleby, Louis, and Tony Maden. “Baby stealing.” British Medical Journal 22 June 1991

So what can we do about this?  One hospital initiated a system to help keep newborns safe through a “crib card” system:

Infant kidnappings can and do occur, though fortunately not often. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tallied 10 abductions and a handful of attempts in 1990 among 3.7 million births. But even one abduction is one too many. Hospital security officers say the expanded visiting hours and relaxed atmosphere that have become commonplace on childbirth/postpartum units increase the risk.

Prompted by such warnings, and by news of a kidnapping at a nearby hospital, our nursery’s medical director and nursing staff developed our Infant Security Crib Card system. We think it’s unique, and we know it’s effective.

One identifying crib card is issued to each mother-newborn pair. When the infant is with the mother, the card remains at the nursery; when the infant is in the nursery, the mother keeps the card in her room. No one has the infant and the card at the same time, or takes the baby from the mother without relinquishing the crib card first.

The expectant mother’s admission to the labor and delivery area sets the system in motion. The admitting nurse stamps the top of a 3 x 5 inch card with her patient ID plate, which includes her name, address, physician code, patient number, medical record number, insurance provider, room number, birth date, and date of admission. The words “crib card” are written in the middle of the card in bold black letters. After delivery, a stamp of the newborn’s ID plate goes on the bottom.

~Godwin, Tina Coker, and Joyce Simmons. “Our simple system keeps newborns safe.” RN May 1991


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