10 Infant Security Best Practices

These solutions can help your hospital thwart infant abductions, which often are very carefully planned.

Between 1983 and June 2014 there were 292 infant abductions in America, with nearly half (45 percent) occurring at healthcare facilities. Despite the infrequency of these types of incidents, hospitals must be diligent in their prevention efforts.

Abductors often carefully plan their abduction attempts, becoming familiar with the hospital’s layout, controls and procedures. Many pose as caregivers and dress in caregiver or nurse attire, and develop a relationship with the mother. Some have posed as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) workers or as marketers offering “free” products for newborns.

Unfortunately, due to the limited number of days a mother stays at the hospital for the delivery of her child (typically one to three days), she often doesn’t have the opportunity to get to know the individuals who are authorized to be in the maternity area. This makes healthcare facilities tempting targets to would-be infant abductors.

Hospitals, then, must constantly be vigilant when it comes to infant security. Here’s a list of best practices your hospital should adopt so that it can prevent the unthinkable.

1. Form a multidisciplinary infant security committee: Prior to developing a program to address this issue, form a multidisciplinary infant security committee that includes appropriate stakeholders, including members of the maternal/child health, nursing, risk management and public safety departments. This team should create policies and procedures, as well as help develop support for the security equipment and technology deployed.

2. Issue badges: Issue special badges that are only worn by nurses and other caregivers authorized to transport infants. Train mothers to not release their newborns to individuals who are not wearing the appropriate badge.

Who Abducts Infants?

Most individuals who attempt to abduct a newborn are female, overweight (to suggest pregnancy) and range in age from 12 to 55, but are usually in their early 20s. They may use the baby as an attempt to maintain or save a relationship with a husband, boyfriend or partner. They may be trying to replace a child they have lost or were unable to conceive due to fertility challenges. The race and skin color of the offender or her significant other usually match that of the infant.

3. Train mothers:  Train mothers to not leave their infants alone, even to use the restroom, take a shower or sleep. Also train mothers not to answer questions about their children’s birth if they receive calls from unidentified individuals. These calls should be reported to their caregivers.

4. Train staff: Train new staff immediately on all technologies, policies and procedures. Be certain to provide refresher courses periodically.

5. Conduct drills: Conduct an infant abduction drill annually, if not more frequently.

6. Use the proper code: Don’t use code Amber when referring to the abduction of an infant. Instead, use code Pink. The response to code Amber is different from that of an infant abduction and might cause confusion.

7. Use video surveillance:  Install security cameras at all ingress/egress points, including elevators.

8. Secure all stairwell doors: Ensure that all stairwell doors are locked and self-closing.

9. Control access to the unit: Staff should be able to access the area via card access control systems, while visitors should be granted entry on an individual basis.

10. Consider installing an electronic infant security system: If this solution is selected, prevent false alarms by training staff on its use. Also have the vendor adjust the parameters of the system and sensitivity of the sensors to reduce nuisance alarms.

For more information, visit www.missingkids.com. Information about attempted abductions should be reported to 1-800-THE-LOST.

Photo: Thinkstock

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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