Recently, an 8 year old girl, Victoria Stafford, went missing after school in Woodstock, Ontario. A video surveillance camera shows a woman casually walking with Victoria near her school. My 7 year old walks or rides his bike to school most days except in the Winter. We live in a quiet country subdivision and the school is only about 1 km away. I now feel that I should go over streetproofing with him as well as my 4 year old who also attends JK and that I shouldn't take for granted that we live in a safe area. Below is a list of streetproofing tips for children and yourself.
- Teach your child their full name and telephone number as soon as they are old enough to retain that information. It is also a good idea to teach them your cell phone number.
- Never go with a stranger even if they call your child by name or say that there is an emergency and that they will take your child home.
- Teach them to dial 911 in an emergency.
- If someone tries to grab them, teach them to yell "You are not my mother (or father)!" and to make as much noise as possible. Also teach them to scatter their backpack or belongings if they are being forced to go somewhere.
- If they get lost in a mall or store, teach them to go directly to a cashier or counter clerk.
- Tell their teacher about anyone suspicious looking on the school playground.
- Provide the school or daycare with lists of authorized persons who may pick up the child and ensure that your child knows the names of people on the list. It is also prudent to create a password and give it to the child, authorized persons, and school and daycare staff to use in case of emergency. That way, when a person other than yourself has to pick up the child, the correct password must be given.
- Do not write your child's name in a visible spot on clothing and backpacks. Write it on an inside label.
- Know where your child is playing at all times and keep a list of all of his/her friends names and phone numbers. Also, set a time for them to be home and to call home if they are playing at a friend's house.
- Never leave a child alone in a public place or car.
- Tell them to never take shortcuts through parks or fields, or or play in any isolated buildings or areas.
- Have them walk with a buddy to and from school.
- Take note of what your child is wearing everyday. (I am guilty of being so busy in the morning that I don't notice what my oldest is wearing because he dresses himself.)
- Keep a child identity kit with your child's recent photo, medical and dental history, and fingerprints.
- If your child does go missing make a careful search of your home and property, check with playmates and play areas, check with all closeby relatives, friends, and neighbours. If you do not find them then call or visit your police station.
I am praying for the safe return of Victoria and cannot imagine what her family must be going through.