Recently there has been an increase in confirmed and unconfirmed child kidnapping and child disappearance cases. You only need to scroll down your Facebook feed, media apps and other social media platforms and you are almost guaranteed to see a post about a search for a missing child. This is every parents’ and persons’ worst nightmare. We post our condolences, our anger, our prayers and best wishes for the family and hope that they will be found unharmed.
But what if this happened to you? Do you know what to do? And do you know how to take steps to prevent this from happening to your children and loved one’s children? Would you be able to assist a friend or family member if this happened to them? Where would you go to get help?
As an attorney and a mom, I recently had the horrifying realisation that even I would not necessarily know what to do in these circumstances. So, I took the time to do a bit of research and put together this article which could hopefully help to save a child’s life one day. Please feel free to pass this article to as many parents as you know-at the end of the day, the more informed we are as parents, the better.
What Do I Do if it Happens to Me?
Firstly, and most importantly, in any case of a disappearance of any person, time is of the essence – the SAPS should be contacted immediately, the channels of help accessed and processed as soon as possible and awareness should be spread quickly.
Here is what to do should your child or a loved one go missing:
- THERE IS NO WAITING PERIOD TO REPORT A MISSING PERSON!
- Report a missing person at your nearest police station immediately.
- Produce a recent photograph of the missing person.
- Give a complete description of the missing person’s last whereabouts, clothes that they were wearing, as well as any information that can assist the investigating officer.
- Complete and sign a SAPS 55(A) form. This form safeguards the SAPS from hoax reports and indemnifies the SAPS to distribute the photograph and information of the missing person.
- Obtain the investigating officer’s contact details and send him or her any additional information that might become available as soon as you receive it.
- If a missing person is found or returns voluntarily, inform the investigating officer immediately. A SAPS 92 form must be completed to inform the Bureau of Missing Persons that the missing person’s report can be removed from the circulation system.
- Contact the Pink Ladies Association for Missing Children http://thepinkladiesza.weebly.com/contact.html
- Contact Missing Children South Africa http://missingchildren.org.za/page/15/
Tips For Parents and What To Teach Your Children:
- Know where your child is at all times, what they are wearing and whom they are with.
- Teach your children about the Buddy System and to NEVER go to places alone.
- Always supervise your young children, ensure that a trusted adult is present to supervise if you cannot be present. Make sure that your older children always take a friend with them and teach them that it is always safer to travel in groups. There is safety in numbers.
- Teach your children never to accept rides from strangers or from someone you do not know, even if the child knows them.
- Teach your children to run away from danger and teach them to yell if they feel threatened. Their safety is more important than being polite. SCREAM AS LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE. Teach them that danger is anyone or anything that invades their personal space or makes them feel uncomfortable. If somebody grabs them, teach them to try and throw themselves on the floor kick, scream, move around and fight because it is more difficult to be picked up from the floor when their full weight is on the ground. If in a mall and your child is grabbed by a stranger teach them to yell your name rather than “mommy” or “daddy”.
- Teach your children AWARENESS. They need to be aware of the dangers, aware of their surroundings and aware of people and strangers. Instil a sense of safety and vigilance in them from a young age. You don’t have to make them fearful but do need to empower and equip them with safety precautions. Create “what if” scenarios with your children that they could use in a real situation.
- Talk openly to your children about safety. Discuss security issues with your children so that they understand the need for precautions.
- At the earliest age possible teach your children their full names and telephone numbers as well as addresses. Teach your children your full name and surname. Most small children do not know their parent’s full name and only know them as “mommy” or “daddy”. Teach your children how to make local and long distance phone calls.
- Teach and point out landmarks to your children.This is to help prevent them from getting lost as well as showing them where to go should there be an emergency. Places such as hospitals, police stations or other places of safety are of importance in this regard.
- Create family exclusive secret passwords and establish strict procedures for picking children up from schools, after events or at friends’ homes. Teach your children that should you not be able to fetch them and you send somebody else to pick them up, that the other person should know the password, otherwise your child should not go with that person.
- Be involved in your child’s life. Create a relationship based on trust and mutual understanding. Create a home environment where your children would want to be and where they would like to bring friends to.
- Familiarise yourself with the latest technology and social media platforms that your children are using. Find ways to monitor use of technology and always have access to what your child is using.
- Make an effort to know who your children are friend’s with including knowing their parents. Know the names, telephone numbers and addresses of your children’s friends including their parents.
- Consider installing an alarm system in your home with possible monitoring features such as security cameras. Teach your children how the alarm system works, demonstrate and teach them how to lock doors and windows. Have a lockable “safe room” in the house and keep a cellphone in there in case of emergencies. Teach your child that if they are in danger they must lock the door and must not come out before family password is given.
- Do not leave your small baby or child unattended and never have your back to them- even when reaching for an item on a self. Rather pick them up or be holding a part of their body.
- Know your employees and co-workers. Do background screening and reference checks on everyone who works at your home, especially the people who take care of your children such as nannies and au pairs. Their knowledge of your family, home and security is extensive and intimate. Request copies of their Identity and passport documents. Police clearance certificates should also be obtained for employees.
- Never leave your children alone in the car, not even for a few seconds.
- Educate your children on online dangers and dangers in real life.Teach your children that it is unsafe to chat to strangers online and never to divulge information to people online or to trust anybody online. People offering travelling, work or modelling opportunities should never be trusted. They must never give any information over the telephone including their name, address, or an indication that they are alone.
- Be on guard for behavioural changes in your children, friends and family. Child abductors may first try to prime a child before abducting them.
- Listen to your child when he or she discusses anyone they have met or spoken with when you weren’t around.
Numbers To Contact Should Your Child Go Missing:
- Police: 10111
- Cellphone Help: 112
- SAPS Crimestop: 08600 10111
- Childline: 08000 55 555
- Pink Ladies: email@example.com
072 214 7439
- Missing Children: 072 MISSING (072 647 7464) firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.saps.gov.za/services/report_missing_person.php
I hope this article has been of some assistance to you and has armed you with some helpful knowledge. Let’s band together to try to prevent any further disappearances of children in our country. Please feel free to contact me should you require any further information or assistance at email@example.com
Senior Associate, HJW Attorneys
Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa
LLB Law (University of Johannesburg)
Cyber Law Higher Diploma (University of Johannesburg)