How Safe is America for Our Kids?
I read recently that your children are twenty times more likely to be killed by lightning than to be abducted by a stranger. But in the odd chance that lightning might strike you, don’t swim when thunderclouds are overhead and you don’t stand under trees during a lightening storm, right?
I think the same kind of rationale should be held when raising children. Using good sense and compassion is essential. It’s far too easy to judge other moms (and dads, but why aren’t they held accountable?) for the choices they make—but really, isn’t our time better spent asking other questions? As you’ve likely heard, on May 3rd, four-year-old British girl, Madeleine McCann, was abducted from her hotel room in Portugal while her parents were having dinner in eyeshot of the room. While I understand that many think this appalling, it seems more productive to send thoughts and prayers to the McCann’s rather than judgment.
One thing to consider is that they weren’t staying where lightning is known to strike. They were staying at an all-inclusive, secure Mark Warner resort that caters to families in Portugal where crime against children is quite low. For instance, Mark Warner resorts have kids clubs in the day so children can play with camp counselors while parents lounge at the beach or play golf. These resorts offer baby monitors so parents can listen to their children sleep while they eat dinner at one of the restaurants within its compound. In France, Spain, or Portugal, restaurants do not even open until 9:30 or 10 p.m. so children may be fast asleep, and taking the baby monitor to the downstairs restaurant seems like a logical approach. I have chatted with several parents in London who admit to doing this—typically leaving the sleeping children for thirty minutes or, if an hour, checking on them periodically, while they eat dinner. I’m not saying whether that is okay or not. But it is something typically accepted by others when staying at five-star, all-inclusive resorts in Europe that cater to the family vacation.
I pray that Madeleine is found. And I also hope that we can open more dialogue about just how safe our kids are in America. Abductions in Europe are big news because they are so rare. It isn’t so in America. According to Eyes of America, a project of Child Watch of America, every forty seconds a child is reported missing or abducted. The harshest statistic from the FBI is the increase in missing children since 1982 is up by 444 percent.
I wonder what is behind this increase? Is it the demise of the American family—with so little time for one another or so much more divorce? Is it an indication of the power and lure of the internet where child pornography is a huge business? I really don’t have the answers. But in the meantime, here are a few more FBI statistics and facts about American kidnapping:
- Most abductions are done by luring children to a vehicle rather than taking them by force; about half were four to eleven years old, and the others were twelve or older—74 percent were girls
- Strangers kidnap about 300 children every year
- The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 114,600 non-family abductions are attempted each year, with approximately 3,200 to 4,600 being successful
- Teen-age girls are considered most vulnerable
- The Justice Dept also reports 24 percent of all kidnapping cases are “stranger-kidnapping,” compared with 49 percent family kidnapping, and 27 percent acquaintance kidnapping
- Justice Department statistics indicates that the risk of abduction by a stranger is relatively low for preschoolers, but increases through elementary school and peaks at age fifteen.
What are your thoughts? I know my child will never have the childhood that I did, which makes me sad. Gone are the days when a mom can say, “Have fun and be home for dinner!” The Land of the Free” seems to have more restrictions now, making it hard for our children to explore and play freely. It’s a hard reality to accept.