There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing a news story about a lost or abducted child. The anguish of bereaved parents may make us want to change the channel, but ultimately, we have to confront the reality and take steps to safeguard our children and plan for the future.
President George W. Bush signed into law the national Amber Alert plan in 2003 to help combat child abductions. The Amber Alert is a child abduction bulletin broadcast to communities when a child disappears. Alerts are distributed via commercial radio stations, television stations, electronic freeway signs, wireless messages to cellphones, press releases to news agencies and various other methods, in hopes that a quick reaction on the part of the public can locate a child quickly, before critical time is lost.
One tool that has gained the interest of both parents and police are Amber Alert DNA/ID kits, which are being provided by agencies across the country at child safety events, health fairs and fundraisers. The kit is designed to assist police in following the trail of a missing child, whether they are lost or become the victim of kidnapping.
The kit typically includes:
Many police agencies that sponsor Amber Alert days will also take a picture of your child (some take video), which can be used to assist the media. A candid photo may offer a better representation of how a child looks, compared with a posed portrait from school picture day.
So, how do you find out more about a program in your town or city? The best way is to contact your child’s school or your local police department (at the general information number, of course, not 911). If your town or village doesn’t have a program, the county health department, county sheriff or state police may also have a program.
For general information on the Amber Alert program, the U.S. Department of Justice has a helpful website at www.AmberAlert.gov. In addition, there is a family resource guide on how to prevent kidnapping that can be downloaded from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website.
The U.S. Department of Justice credits the Amber Alert plan with the safe return of nearly 600 abducted and missing children – a staggering number. We encourage you to set aside time to talk to your children about safety, as well as having the entire family take proactive steps to ensure the safety and security of your loved ones.