Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dr. Phil Show on Child Abductions from School

While doing a paper filing project I watched/listened to the July 11, 2008 Dr. Phil show about child abductions. The show focused entirely on young children abducted from their schools. In all cases despite the schools having policies and protocols in place regarding who can pick children up, the students on the show were abducted by strangers at school. In each case school employees chose to not follow school procedures and school rules and let the children leave the school with the adult abductor.

The worst part in my opinion was one story where a paraprofessional (aka teacher’s aide) released a child to a man without following the school’s protocol. Dr. Phil asked the school staff why she still had her job there and they said she is a good employee with 20 years of experience. The staff were praising her over and over! Whatever happened to sometimes one strike and you are out as sometimes happens when working in the private sector?

In one case the child was abducted and the school did not tell the parents until after the child was returned to the school. The police were not phoned until after. It took the parents two days to get the full story out of the school administration, the parents said. The parents said the staff was not even telling them everything and they pressed and pressed for more information.

In another story the girl was abducted and taken away in a car. She still refuses to speak about what happened in the car and cries about it. Dr. Phil offered the girl and family free counseling to help unravel this and to help heal the child. The girl had regressed in her behavior, and become fearful of all strangers and was afraid to leave her mother.

These stories broke my heart. There is no reason at all that simple safety protocols which were in place were ignored by staff and the children were taken right from school.

In one story the parents of the accused abductor shared that this man is not the son they know and said he has two mental health diagnoses and is acting totally different than he used to. That brings up ethical questions about justice and our criminal justice system that are not easy to think about or find good solutions to.

Here is a link to the episode titled “Abducted From School”. There is video footage there and some show notes also.

Dr. Phil has a webpage about how parents can help prepare their children ahead of time so they do not become victims of abduction.

I highly recommend that all parents read the book “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin de Becker. I blogged a bit about this great book in this blog post of mine from March 2006.

I’m putting this on my list of another reason I’m happy my kids are not in school.

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Melissa said...

I am currently working with my child's school to ensure better enforcement of safety policies. Can you direct me to any information about this issue-other articles, studies etc? Thanks for writing the blog above! Sincerely, Worried Mom

christinemm said...

Dear Melissa,
I have no experience working with schools to develop safety processes and procedures. I'm sorry I can't help you in that way.

I don't know what your role or capacity is but I hope you are working in tangent with your town's Board of Education and the PTA to try to get buy-in from the top-down instead of a lone worried mom trying to force a policy onto a school.

That Dr. Phil episode webpage which I did link to in my post might have some tips.

From one mother to another mother I will share that a fantastic must-read for every parent (in my opinion) is the book by Gavin deBecker "Protecting the Gift". The parents learns how to protect their children and it teaches parents and children to trust their gut instinct and signs to watch for in potential child predators. One issue in the book is that he says only 57 kids were reported abducted by strangers. Most abductions are said to be a family member like a divorced parent taking the child from the parent who has legal custody.

Lastly the most sex abuse happens from close relatives of the child, close friends, neighbors, or professionals who the parent puts the child in the care of (i.e. coaches and others who work with children in a volunteer or paid role).

deBecker wants parents to see the real risk for child sex abuse is the ones we know and think we can trust.

The info in the book also does help children, if you prepare them with his tips, in case they try to be abducted.

That Dr. Phil show was scary for me to watch even though my kids are homeschooled not in schools.