Infant Security Basics

ID badges, training, video surveillance, access control and tagging systems can help to prevent a newborn baby from being abducted from your hospital.

The clock is ticking, and a newborn is the target. Right now, a desperate female may be planning an abduction of an infant from a hospital. She is desperate because for nine months she has portrayed to family, friends and co-workers that she is pregnant. 

In her mind, having a baby will fill a void in her life and will be instrumental in strengthening her relationship with her significant other. The ruse has worked so far, but now the “due date” is here. The motivation to have a baby has been the leading factor in the vast majority of hospital infant abductions – not that of ransom, selling of babies or malicious intents.

Fortunately, because of work by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and other organizations (such as the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety; National Association of Neonatal Nurses; Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses; and Academy of Neonatal Nursing), healthcare security practitioners know more about the crime of hospital infant abductions by strangers than perhaps any other serious crime taking place at our nation’s healthcare facilities. We know who does the abducting, their modus operandi, where the incidents occur, and most importantly, how to prevent this type of tragic incident. 

The most recent NCMEC statistics on this topic were released April 23. As of this date, there have been 128 identified infants abducted from hospitals between 1983-April 2010. Of this number, six are still missing. There were three abductions in 2009. Small numbers – big, big consequences.

Most Abductions Occur in Mother’s Room

Current abduction location statistics show that 58 percent occur from the mother’s room; 13 percent from the nursery; 13 percent from pediatrics; and 16 percent from on-premises. Thus, it is obvious that the mother’s room is where increased security efforts are needed. 

Education of mom and family is key to infant security. While the infant is in the hospital, at any given time, either mom (family) or hospital staff are responsible for care of the infant. Thus, when an attempted or actual abduction takes place, it is not difficult to pinpoint responsibility.

The common modus operandi of the abductor is to become familiar with the hospital environment (layout, controls, general procedures) and establish a relationship with mom. The abductor generally poses as a caregiver and is dressed in caregiver attire. Abductors have posed as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) workers dressed in jeans and tee shirts; marketers offering “free” infant products; and even as visitors who developed a quick trusting relationship with mom. 

Identification Badges, Training Are Critical

The basic element of protection is the staff identification badge, which is only issued to and worn by caregivers authorized to transport infants. In this regard, mom must fully understand that she cannot release her baby for transport to anyone who is not openly displaying the required unique ID badge.

Mom must also be trained to not leave her infant unattended to use the bathroom, take a shower or even take a quick nap. A telephone call from an unknown person should alert mom to not answer any questions relative to the recent birth of her child and should be reported to the assigned caregiver.

Hospital staff must also be trained, preferably on the first day he or she works in the hospital mother/baby unit. This training must be followed by a minimum of annual training and participation in periodic security procedure audits.

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