It's every parent's worst fear: her child is missing. But could she have done anything to prevent it? Possibly...
Here are some things you can do to reduce the odds of your child being kidnapped and to help the police's efforts in the event that your child is missing. Check off each item on the list as you've completed it:
____ Have ID-like photos taken of your child every six months and include information about your child's height, weight, hair color, and eye color in a file.
____ Have your child fingerprinted and footprinted. Many local police departments sponsor fingerprinting programs -- find out if they're available in your town.
____ Make a file of your child's most recent medical and dental records.
____ Make sure your child knows her name, address, phone number, and whom to call in case of an emergency.
____ Find out which Web sites your child regularly visits. Explain the dangers of chat room "friends," and remind her never to give out personal information.
____ Set boundaries about the places your child can and can't go. Don't let him go to malls, movie theaters, parks, public bathrooms, or fundraising door to door alone.
____ Decide on "safe homes" in town where your child can go in case of trouble.
____ Develop code words for caregivers other than Mom or Dad, and remind your child never to tell anyone the code word. Teach your child not to go anywhere with someone who doesn't know the code word.
____ Check the references of any babysitters, day-care providers, or nannies that you're considering.
____ If you've arranged for someone to pick up your child from school or child care, discuss the arrangements beforehand with your child and with the school or child-care center.
____ Make sure your child's clothing doesn't have her name on it -- children tend to trust adults who know their name.
____ Encourage your child to talk to you about the people he meets and how he feels about them.
____ Make sure custody documents are in order -- parental abductions affect more than 350,000 families each year.
Sources: The Nemours Foundation; City of San Diego Police Department