According to the figures released by the South African Police Service Missing Persons Bureau, a child goes missing in South Africa every six hours. Approximately 1460 children goes missing each year and according to Missing Children South Africa’s statistics, at least 13% of the children gone missing are not found. This brings up the question: How do we ensure the safety of our children?

There are a number of precautions we can take to ensure the safety of our children. In South Africa, children go missing either because they have become lost, or if they have been abducted or decided to run away from the circumstances at home. The most important thing to remember is that you must report a missing child IMMDEIATELY. Do NOT wait 24 hours – there is no waiting period to report a missing person. We have to accept that crimes such as child trafficking are a reality and we must make sure that a missing child is reported right away.

Know where your children are at all times, who they are with and what they are wearing. Along with this, ensure that you also have a recent photograph of your child on you so that it is immediately available in case of emergency. Children are trafficked for a number of reasons including labour and sexual exploitation. They are also trafficked to be beggars, street vendors, housebreakers and drug runners. This is why it is crucial to teach our children that they should not go anywhere with people they do not trust. It is shocking that a lot of the cases reported to Missing Children SA, specifically kidnappings, are cases where the child actually knew their kidnapper. We need to tell our children if they do not trust someone, they should tell their parents. As parents, we should then trust our children’s instincts and fears, and respect their feelings.

Any child who has been removed from their home environment is vulnerable to dangers on the street, and therefore we need to teach our children to make loud noises in order to attract attention. Children should also learn to take the same route to and from places. If your child then goes missing, you can start looking in the discussed route.

Another important tip is to be involved in your child’s life, but don’t force it. You need to build a trusting relationship and create a home environment where they want to be, and where they want to bring their friends. This also means that you need to make an effort to know your child’s friends – know their names, addresses and numbers.

It is not possible to be with your child 24 hours a day, but you can try to keep your children close to home and teach them the importance of the BUDDY SYSTEM – never go anywhere alone. An ID bracelet or any form of identification with your number on it is also a very useful tool. Missing Children South Africa has created an interim ID Kit that can be downloaded from their website (www.missingchildren.org.za). People go into a state of shock when a child goes missing, and the ID Kit is there to encourage people to have this information readily available and to update it every year. It will make the process a lot easier if the child does go missing – the police and Missing Children South Africa then have all the information at hand.

Teach your child his or her own name and address, as well as your name and number. A child might be in the position where they escape from their kidnapper and if they know their personal details, they can immediately ask someone for help. Also take your child to the nearest police station, hospital and clinic to show them how to find it easily – point out landmarks to prevent them from getting lost.

Social media is becoming bigger and you need to be one step ahead. If your children has Mxit or Facebook, familiarise yourself with the technology and find a way to monitor it. Another way to also ensure the safety of you child is to create an exclusive family password – teach your children that when you send a person to pick them up, the person should know the password, otherwise your children should not go with the person.

As parents we need to be more focussed on the safety of our children. You don’t want to be the parent of one of the 1460 children who go missing annually.

For more information about Missing Children South Africa and the work they do, visit www.missingchildren.org.za or like them on Facebook. You can also find the Interim ID Kit on their website. Contact Missing Children South Africa on 021 950 1546 or send an email to info@missingchildren.org.za.

Fight human trafficking and win! SMS ‘Track’, followed by your name and surname to 42141 to donate R10 to Missing Children South Africa and stand a chance to win in our monthly draw. For more information, visit www.missingchildren.org.za.

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