In advance of National Missing Children’s Day on May 25, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Seattle Field Office is sharing tips on how to keep kids safe and information about how the FBI investigates instances of child abduction and exploitation. Through the Child Exploitation Task Force, the FBI works to decrease the vulnerability of children to sexual exploitation, provide a rapid investigative response to crimes against children, and enhance the capabilities of state and local law enforcement agencies.
An unfortunate reality is that every year, thousands of children go missing. In these cases, the FBI works to assist in the investigation and speedy recovery of the abducted child. In cases of child exploitation, an individual often targets a child for the purpose of abuse or violence. This targeting can be done in person by an acquaintance or a stranger or it can be done online through social websites and chat rooms.
As the school year draws to a close, many parents are planning for their children’s summer activities. Whether a child is spending the summer at home with parents, a nanny or tutor, or away from home at a summer camp, the following safety tips will help ensure that children are being cared for under the watchful eyes of trusted and vetted adults.
- Know your child care providers. Choose babysitters, nannies, and tutors with care. Obtain references from family, friends, and neighbors. Many states now have registries for public access to check criminal history or sex-offender status. Observe the interaction with your children and ask your children how they feel about your child care provider. Do background screening and reference checks on everyone who works in your home, particularly those people who care for your children. Check references with other families who have used the child care providers. Make sure you know as much about them as they do about you and your family.
- Check out camps and summer programs before enrolling your children. Ask if a background screening check is completed on the individuals working with the children. Make sure there will be adult supervision of your children at all times and make sure you are made aware of all activities and field trips offered by the camp or program.
- Observe how adults work with your children. Be involved in your children’s activities, and if you are concerned about anyone’s behavior, discuss your concerns with the sponsoring organization. Notice when anyone shows one or all of your children an inordinate amount of attention or tries to give them gifts. Take the time to talk to your children about the person and find out why that person is acting in this way. Tell your children to never accept money or gifts from anyone unless you have told them it is OK.
- Know where your children are and who they are with. Make sure an adult whom you have met and know the background of is supervising children any time they are outside or away from home. Review rules with your children about whose homes they may visit and discuss the boundaries of where they may and may not go in the neighborhood.
- Talk to your children about safety and encourage them to tell you or another trusted adult if anyone or anything makes them feel sad, scared, or confused. Teach them it is OK to tell you what happened and they will not be “tattletales” for telling.
- Remember to stay alert, informed, and focused about personal-security issues. Being available and taking time to really know and listen to your children helps build feelings of safety and security. Be sure your child knows what to do in case of an emergency and how to reach you by phone. Children should have a trusted adult, whom you know, to call if they are scared or there is an emergency.