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STOLEN & SWITCHED BABIES
Keeping Your Newborn Safe
Fortunately, this is a problem that most homebirth parents do not have to worry as much about at the time of birth. Giving birth in your own home has added security measures that you will not find in birthing centers and hospitals, no matter how great their security measures may be. You know you will not have your baby switched, lost, taken out of your sight, or have any procedure done without your knowledge, because your baby is with you at home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You know all your visitors and your birth attendants. As a rule, we do not put announcements in the local newspapers and any publicity is kept within family members and selected friends. However, it is always wise to maintain precautions for newborn safety to prevent child abduction out of your home after the baby comes. But this is something, we as parents, must always concern ourselves about no matter how old our children become. For those parents opting for a non-homebirth, this article may prove to be very beneficial. - By MoonDragon Staff
LOSS OF INNOCENCE
On Friday, June 12, 1992, I reported after work for my usual volunteer duty at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California. I worked in the nursery as a 'cuddler,' holding and touching the ill and premature infants. Normally I signed in at the desk, entered the nursery, scrubbed in and then reported to the various nurseries to see who needed some TLC that day.
But that summer day was different. There was security at the nursery entrance and a stressed, hyper-aware atmosphere. Though it had only just hit the news, there had been an infant abduction that day. The nurses were not really allowed to speak of the incident.
The next morning's paper carried the details: Jessica Mammini had handed her two-day-old daughter over to a kind woman who had introduced herself as a social worker. Jessica was told the baby needed to be weighed before financial aid could be approved. The woman then disappeared with 'Baby Kerri.'
The following September, a tip led police to Karen Lea Hughes, a woman who had apparently taken Kerri to soothe her upset over an earlier miscarriage. The baby was healthy and had been reasonably cared for and was returned to her frantic parents. In those few months, however, hospital nurseries nationwide wised up and implemented newer, more stringent security measures. (Hughes, sentenced to eight years in prison, served three before being released on parole in March 1997.)
STOLEN BABY 'SAFE & WELL'
By News.Sky.com - Updated: 20:43, Sunday March 11, 2007
A three-day-old baby taken from a Texas hospital by a woman posing as a medical worker has been found safe and well. The woman dressed in hospital 'scrubs' before leaving with Mychael Darthard-Dawodu, police said. Baby Mychael Hospital CCTV showed her with a hood pulled around her head as she walked into the building in Lubbock. The kidnapper reportedly went into the mother's room several times before the baby was taken. She eventually claimed the baby needed treatment then walked off with her, a health official said. Hospital CCTV. Once found, Mychael was taken by police to Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis, New Mexico, where officers said she was in good condition. "We're ecstatic to be able to locate the child still in good health and to be able to reunite her with her mother," Lt Scotts Hudgens said. Mychael was wearing a monitoring device, but it was not clear if the device included a Global Positioning System beacon. The authorities said a 21-year-old woman was in custody in Clovis, which is about 100 miles from the Texas hospital.
STOLEN BABY'S MOTHER OUT OF HOSPITAL
Kidnapper Took Week-Old Infant After Slashing Woman's Throat
By CBS NEWS: St. Clair, Mo., Sept. 17, 2007
Seven-day old Abigale Lynn Woods was stolen after a woman slashed Abigale's mother's throat and fled with the Lonedell, Mo., infant. (AP/Franklin County Sheriff)
Search For Abducted Newborn - Stephanie Ochsenbine says a woman knocked on her door Sept. 15 asking to use her phone, then slashed her throat and took her baby. Julie Chen speaks with family members and Sheriff Gary Toelke.
(AP) A rural Missouri mother whose throat was slashed and her newborn baby kidnapped was released from a hospital as authorities said they found a knife on property near her home. A woman came to 21-year-old Stephanie Ochsenbine's home in the small town of Lonedell on Friday, attacked her with a knife and left with her week-old infant, Abigale Lynn Woods, officials said. Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said authorities found a knife and other evidence near Ochsenbine's home, but would not give more details. Ochsenbine is not a suspect, Toelke said. The attacker was described as a white woman with black hair, 5-feet-8 and 200 pounds. She was believed to be armed. Ochsenbine helped police artists with a composite drawing of the kidnapper after leaving the hospital. The picture could be released Sunday, Toelke said. Fliers showing the baby, called "Abby" by her family, were posted in gas stations and restaurants in neighboring Union. The 6-pound girl, born Sept. 8, has dark brown hair, dark eyes and a strawberry birthmark on her forehead. People in the area, about 45 miles southwest of St. Louis, attended prayer services Sunday for Abby's safe return. Search dogs, Franklin County deputies, FBI agents and several Missouri National Guard members combed the area around the home for clues over the weekend. Callers continued to offer tips, Toelke said, but none led to a suspect. "Any lead is good, but so far there's nothing that has stood out," he said. "There's a lot of information we have, but nothing concrete." Ochsenbine told police she did not know the woman who came to her door Friday and entered the house after asking to use the telephone. Ochsenbine's 1-year-old son, Connor, also was in the house but was unharmed. Ochsenbine's boyfriend and Abby's father, James Woods, was at work.
Authorities have asked hospitals and doctors to be on the lookout for anyone bringing in a newborn. The abductor has been profiled as someone who had a child die recently or as someone who could not have children, told people she was pregnant and needed to steal a child so her lie would not be found out. From 1983 to 2002, there were 217 reported cases of non-family infant abductions, and all but a few babies were recovered safely within 25 miles of where they had been taken, according to a 2003 study by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. About three-quarters of the kidnapped infants were recovered in fewer than five days. "We're hopeful that's the case," Toelke said.
The numbers According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the number of infant thefts are conservatively estimated at between 12 and 18 per year. Add to that number the equally high-profile cases of switched infants.
STOLEN-SWITCHED HOSPITAL BABY STORIES
Switched, Stolen, Black Market Babies & The Baby Brokers Around The Nation: Baby Stolen at Hospital is Reunited With Family Yahoo News: U.S. Baby Stolen From Womb - Said In Good Condition OnlineNigeria.com: Shocking: 2-day-old Baby Stolen From Hospital Amber Alert: 2 day-old baby stolen from Lubbock Hospital
Do an internet search for "stolen switched hospital babies" and you will get a huge number of reported cases.
SAFETY TIPS FOR YOUR NEWBORN
Even one stolen or switched infant is too many. How can you protect your newborn? Here are some tips.
Before delivering in a medical facility, take a tour or attend orientation so that you are familiar with the hospital or birth center and appearance of the staff. Before birth, take the time to inquire about nursery routines as well as security procedures. If you wait until you are in labor to become acquainted with these details, you may find it difficult to be very attentive to the finer points.
AFTER THE BABY IS BORN
Immediately after your baby is born, you, your baby and your partner/support person will receive matching identification bracelets. Personally verify that the bands have matching numbers and make sure your baby's band (usually around the ankle, or two bands, one each around ankle and wrist) is not loose enough to slip off. If you cannot keep your baby with you at all times, double-check these numbers to ensure they are the same.
Make a note of your baby's appearance and vital statistics: hair color and amount, weight, length, sex. Some hospitals take photographs of the baby shortly after birth. If they do not, have your partner bring in a camera and take pictures of you with your new baby.
If you cannot keep your baby with you at all times ('rooming in'), have your partner or another family member can accompany the baby to the nursery (where bathing and other examinations may take place). Someone you trust should be with your baby at all times.
WHEN BABY IS NOT IN YOUR ARMS
Never leave your baby unattended and alone in your room for even a minute. This includes while you take a nap, go to the bathroom or have a shower - if you or a family member cannot keep a constant eye on the baby, ask to have the baby taken to the nursery. While in your room, it is preferable to keep your baby on the far side of your bed, away from the door. When you have a lot of visitors, you may get distracted.
Do not give your baby to anyone without proper identification: usually a combination of attire and a hospital photo ID badge, and usually a separate badge identifying him or her as nursery staff. If you have doubts, trust your instinct and do not take chances - call the nursing station and ask someone on the staff to come in and verify. Do not feel as if you are being unreasonable: this is your baby, and you have the right, and responsibility, to protect your newborn. Never be afraid to question everything and everybody when it comes to your baby.
If anyone unfamiliar enters your room or asks about your baby, feel free to question them and satisfy yourself that they are on the hospital staff.
BEFORE LEAVING THE HOSPITAL
The hospital staff should check your matching ID bands before you are discharged, but take it upon yourself to again check your baby's ID bands for yourself. Look at the baby, for the features you first identified after birth: hair color and amount and weight and any other identifying characteristics. Also take a quick peek into the diaper to check gender, and whether or not the baby is circumcised. If you have photos, also use those to compare this baby to the one you delivered.
WHEN YOU ARE AT HOME
The risk of baby theft does not end when you leave the hospital: public birth announcements can trigger baby theft. That means: avoid the lawn signs, the 'It's a Girl!' balloons on the mailbox, and other banners announcing the new arrival. It is hard to contain your joy at having a wonderful new family member, so dispense that energy in other ways: hang the balloons and banners indoors instead.
Keep in mind that some hospitals provide information about new births to the local newspapers, or parents/family members supply the details themselves. Do not do this. Send out birth announcements to your friends, family and co-workers, but do not take unnecessary risks.
Take reasonable precautions. Do not leave windows open at night. Obtain a baby monitor and carry it with you at all times around your home when your baby is not present in the same room. Any service people or other strangers that enter your home, ask for their identification and verify who they are. While they are in your home, keep your baby with you at all times within your eyesight.
OUT IN PUBLIC & SHOPPING
If you go out shopping or out in public, do not ever leave your baby or child unattended at any time, even for a second... this goes for the car (such as while paying for gas, as an example) as well as inside stores or while at the park and playground.
If you are trying on clothing in a boutique, take the baby or child with you into the stall. If you are using a grocery cart, do not leave the baby or child unattended outside your line of vision, preferably within arms reach. If you forget an item in the checkout line, take your cart and your baby or child with you. Even a moment of inattentiveness can result in the loss of your baby or child. Be wary of strangers walking up to you and your baby or child. Baby snatchers and child abductors come in all sexes, ages, and appearances. Teach your children that if they get lost in a store, they should find a security guard or cashier. Under NO circumstances should they ask for help from another shopper or go near the front door or into the parking lot to look for you.
GROWING CHILDREN & INDEPENDENCE - EDUCATE YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT CHILD ABDUCTION
As your children grow and become more independent, your diligence does not stop. A loss of a child is devastating to not only the child and parents, but other family members and friends. Teach your children well about strangers and what they should do if approached. Take an active part in their lives. Know where your children are at all times and with whom. Get to know their friends and their friends parents, as well as teachers and other people in their lives. Take photos frequently to keep an updated picture of your child. Having them fingerprinted (either yourself or the local police station) can help with future identification purposes in the event that something happens. Discuss what procedures they can follow in case they get separated from you in a public place and what to do if they feel threatened in any way. When they become old enough to begin using a computer, know what they are doing online and whom they are chatting with. For more information about child safety and stranger awareness, see the following link:
MoonDragon's Parenting Information: Internet Protection & Safety
BE AWARE - YOU AND YOUR BABY OR CHILD
Like many things in life, the buck stops with you. It is up to you to be extra cautious, to make yourself aware of any potentially improper situations, and to listen to your intuition. It is worth it for the peace of mind, and besides, there is almost nothing else as wonderful bringing a new baby home (other than having it born at home to begin with!).
There is a big market out there for stolen babies and children and many strangers with many perverted or emotionally unstable needs. You need to watch out for your children at all times.
National Center For Missing & Exploited Children
Prevent Abduction.net: A Priceless Resource for Families
TOP FIVE TIPS FOR PREVENTING CHILD ABDUCTION
Bob Stuber is one of the America's most recognized safety experts and the creator of Safe Escape, a video series that teaches parents and kids how to practice proactive safety skills. He shares his top five tactics all parents and kids should know to prevent child abduction
1. DO NOT USE THE WORD STRANGER
Using the word stranger confuses kids. "Nowadays, kids think a stranger is somebody they can smell before they can even see. They can spot this guy. He's hideous," Bob says. That is not always the case. A stranger can look like a normal person to a child.
2. BE SMART, NOT SCARED
Give children specific examples of how to react when approached by a potential predator. "When you are scared and you respond out of fear, you respond in a predictable manner. Pedophiles know it and they love it. That is how they want you." Bob says. "When you are smart, you are not predictable."
3. LEARN TO SPOT DANGEROUS ACTION
"You have got to teach children to look at actions, not at people," Bob explains. "Kids cannot discern if a person is good or bad by their appearance. It is impossible." For example, if a car drives by you and the person smiles and continues to drive, that is OK. If the person pulls over and tries to get a child to come to the car, that is a dangerous action.
Bob also suggests if a child is approached by a person in a car, he or she should immediately walk in the direction that is opposite of the way the car is facing, which makes it more difficult to follow the child.
4. RULES CHANGE WHEN CHILD IS IN DANGER
Children need to know that they do not need to display normal acceptable behavior when they are in trouble. They can act out, more outrageous the better. Bob explains that when a child is in a store, he or she would not normally make a mess. "If somebody tried to grab a kid out of a store, he needs to know, 'I can knock anything off this shelf to get attention.' The more expensive, the better, because then a manager is going to get involved," Bob says.
It is not only important to tell your children that they can act out, but parents should role play with their children. They need to know when the rules are changed. When you feel threatened, you need to know you are not going to get in trouble. You can talk back to adults, you can defy, you can yell, scream, pee your pants, knock stuff off a shelf, throw a chair through a window or anything you have to do to get attention if somebody is taking you against your will. If you are wrong, the mess will be cleaned up.
5. GET YOUR CHILD A PASSPORT
"If you get a passport for your child, it is harder for somebody else to get one if they take them. They can do it, but it is much more difficult," Bob says. If someone else is attempting to get a passport for your child, the process will take some time, and the time will work in your favor.
Bob reminds parents, "Kids are not afraid to talk about this. What they are afraid of is silence, then they make up their own scenarios." He adds that parents need to speak with their children often, not just once a year.
- Travel to school with your child every few weeks. Check out the route and observe the individuals who come in contact with your child. Typical abductors are people who see your child every day, and your child may even speak to this person.
- Teach your child to ask Mom or Dad before assisting or going with another adult. Children need to know they can tell their parents anything.
- GPS is not a good protector of children, because predators are familiar with these devices. Get an ID bracelet for your child and put the child's name, the word "reward" and your phone number on the backside. Tell your child if someone tries to take them, remove the bracelet and throw it on the ground. Someone will find it and contact you. Law enforcement will strengthen their search once they have a clue.
- If your child is missing, make sure to tell authorities about the tactics you have taught your child. They can incorporate those clues in their search.
For more safety tips, visit Bob Stuber's website.
Whenever the evening news brings the story of a kidnapped child or teen, the terrifying prospect of abduction fills the minds of parents everywhere. But it's important to remember that most kids pass through childhood safely. One of the challenges of being a parent is teaching your kids to be cautious without filling them with fear or anxiety. Although some dangers do exist, you lessen the chances that your child will be abducted.
THE REALITY OF CHILD ABDUCTION
The circumstances surrounding child abduction are often quite different from the way they are shown in TV shows and movies. Here are some of the realities of child abduction:
Most kids who are reported missing have run away or there has been a misunderstanding with their parents about where they were supposed to be. Of the kids and teens who are truly abducted, most are taken by a family member or an acquaintance; 25 percent of kids are taken by strangers. Almost all kids kidnapped by strangers are taken by men, and about two thirds of stranger abductions involve female children. Most abducted kids are in their teens. Kids are rarely abducted from school grounds.
STRATEGIES FOR PREVENTING ABDUCTIONS
About 2,100 missing-children reports are filed each day in the U.S. Many cases might be solved more easily if parents can provide a few key pieces of information about their kids, like: height, weight, eye color, and a clear recent photo. And make sure your kids have the safety information that could help prevent an abduction. These strategies may help:
Make sure custody documents are in order.Have ID-like photos taken of your kids every 6 months and have them fingerprinted. Many local police departments sponsor fingerprinting programs.
Keep your kids' medical and dental records up to date.
Make online safety a priority. The Internet is a great tool, but it is also a place for predators to stalk kids. Be aware of your kids' Internet activities and chat room "friends," and remind them never to give out personal information. Avoid posting identifying information or photos of your kids online.
Set boundaries about the places your kids go. Supervise them in places like malls, movie theaters, parks, public bathrooms, or while fundraising door to door.
Never leave kids alone in a car or stroller, even for a minute.
Choose caregivers, such as babysitters, childcare providers, and nannies, carefully and check their references. If you have arranged for someone to pick up your kids from school or day care, discuss the arrangements beforehand with your kids and with the school or childcare center.
Avoid dressing your kids in clothing with their names on it. Children tend to trust adults who know their names.
TALKING TO KIDS ABOUT STRANGERS
Talk to your kids often about safety. Give them the basics on how to avoid and escape potentially dangerous situations. Teach them to:
- Never accept candy or gifts from a stranger.
- Never go anywhere with a stranger, even if it sounds like fun. Predators can lure kids with questions like "Can you help me find my lost puppy?" or "Do you want to see some cute kittens in my car?" Remind your kids that adults they do not know should never ask them to help or to do things for them.
- Run away and scream if someone follows them or tries to force them into a car.
- Say no to anyone who tries to make them do something you have said is wrong or touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Always tell you or another trusted adult if a stranger asks personal questions, exposes himself or herself, or otherwise makes them feel uneasy. Reassure kids that it is OK to tell you even if the person made them promise not to or threatened them in some way.
- Always ask permission from a parent to leave the house, yard, or play area or to go into someone's home.
Keep these other tips in mind, too:
- Make sure younger kids know their names, address, phone number including area code, and who to call in case of an emergency.
- Review how to use 911 or a local emergency number.
- Discuss what to do if they get lost in a public place or store. Most places have emergency procedures for handling lost kids. Remind them that they should never go to the parking lot to look for you. Instruct kids to ask a cashier for help or stand near the registers or front of the building away from the doors.
- Point out the homes of friends around the neighborhood where your kids can go in case of trouble.
- Be sure your kids know whose cars they may ride in and whose they may not. Teach them to move away from any car that pulls up beside them and is driven by a stranger, even if that person looks lost or confused. Develop code words for caregivers other than mom or dad, and remind your kids never to tell anyone the code word. Teach them not to ride with anyone they do not know or with anyone who does not know the code word.
- If your kids are old enough to stay home alone, make sure they keep the door locked and never tell anyone who knocks or calls they are home alone.
IF YOUR CHILD IS ABDUCTED
Because the first few hours are the most critical in missing-child cases, it is important to provide officials with information about your child immediately. If your child has been abducted, contact local law enforcement right away. They will ask you for a recent picture of your child and will probably ask you many questions about the time and location you last saw your child and what your child was wearing.
You may also request that your child be entered into National Crime and Information Center (NCIC). Other clearinghouses such as the Child Protection Education of America ( USA-CHILD) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children ( 843-5678) can offer information and support during your search.
After notifying the authorities, try to stay calm. You will be able to remember details about your child's disappearance more easily if you remain rational and logical.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD. January 2013: KidsHealth.org: Abductions
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