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Child Abduction, Fear and Abuse. Help find April Jones.

The news this week has not been good.  Along with countless others, I’ve spent a lot of this week refreshing my news app on the phone to see if little April Jones had been found yet.  Sadly, she’s not been able to find her way home to her parents, and even more sadly, there has been criticism levelled at the family for allowing April to play outside at 7 pm.

Let’s put this into perspective.  The family live in a small community surrounded by open countryside, and where everyone knows everyone else.  The kind of community that I grew up in.

I wouldn’t let my children out to play late where we live, but I did growing up, and in a community like the Jones live in, I would have happily let my kids out the front at 7 pm.   This is key.  April was outside, beside her home, and picked up by someone she must have trusted.  What difference does the time make?

And pushing the criticism further away, we are really against it when we realise we have to protect our kids from people they know and trust.   I read a blog post yesterday, kindly sent along by Claire Jessiman, The Foodie Quine, that really tells it like it is.   Checklist Mommy from the US, talks about “Tricky People.”

She says “Tricky People are the New Strangers.”  I really would recommend that everyone who feels the slightest bit anxious about abductions and child abuse to go and read it.  It’s also quite light hearted for such a serious topic, which is rather endearing.

In reality, the people who groom kids tend not to be strangers in the eyes of the young.   Checklist Mommy does the same thing that I do.  She tells her kids to go to the nearest Mum with kids for help if they get lost, or something goes wrong.  It’s not actually very likely that they’re going to come across a policeman when they need it.  I’ve told my kids that for a long time, as it seems to be the path of least danger in my eyes.

Checklist Mommy goes further.   She talks about  Patti Fitzgerald of Safely Ever After.  A passionate woman with a vision that we all do need to listen to.

Realistically, our kids have a higher chance of being abused by someone they know than being abducted by a stranger.  The shock and horror when children like April Jones are plucked from the bosom of their loving family can cause us to react badly when we consider our own choices in how to approach our chats with our kids.

One of the things she says, that struck a chord with me was that nobody is going to offer to babysit for free so we can spend time to ourselves.  It really is telling that people don’t want to babysit for the good our own health.

Being suspicious of every adult around our kids is probably a healthy way to go, but we do have to balance that with being sensible.   Looking out for oddly given gifts and special treatment is just good parenting.  If the warning signs are making you uneasy, it’s perhaps time to make a difference.

The red flags and warning tips at Safety Ever After are really good advice.  We could do with a little of that kind of advice coming through our schools.  Sadly, we only seem to have stranger danger alerts.  How much are our kids missing about the dangers that exist for them, how will they learn that they have to take precautions with ALL adults, and not just strangers?

At the end of this all, social media is powerful.  An abducted child has a high chance of being killed within the first three hours of the abduction.   It was about three hours between April being abducted and the first social media appeals for help.   Lost Kidz is a personal Amber Alert system.  It means that the news of an abduction can get out quicker, and share the information with people who can begin to watch out for unusual signs in the area.

I’ve had the odd heart pounding moment when I’ve lost sight of a toddler, but how that feels when the child does not come back after a few minutes, I have no idea.   I do know that many children up and down our country this week will have been hugged tighter at bedtime.

The Lost Kiza website says:

“The Lost Kidz App has been developed to enable parents to send out an alert to other parents in the area if their child goes missing. The alert includes a current photo and any relevant information about the child, allowing an anxious parent to recruit the help of everyone in the vicinity to reunite the parent with their child.”

I have downloaded the app.  I think this could be a powerful social media intervention.   I like the fact that it has a four star rating already.  I like the fact that a lost child can be reported quickly, and the word spread.

Jersey based Stephen Fern created the app after watching a TV documentary about the abduction of Jaycee Lee Delgado – its created  big waves across America, and is spreading across the world.   Eyes immediately looking out for a child in danger.

I’ll continue to refresh my news screen, and hope that April and her family are re-united again.  It’s been a hard week for all parents to cope with the raw fear of abduction, but for April’s parents, this must be a living, walking nightmare.

Best wishes to April and I hope she finds her way home soon.