Robbing the Cradle: An Analysis of Trends in Infant Abduction in the United States

Monday, 28 July 2014: 7:00 AM

Teresa W. Ryan, DNS
RN-to-BSN Program, Northwest Florida State College, Niceville, FL

Purpose: Abduction of an infant by a nonfamily member is an extremely rare event but it is an event that can devastate families and caregivers alike. Hospitals and birthing centers in the United States have successfully employed procedures, from parental education to high-tech security perimeters, to thwart infant abductions so that while abductions from hospital or other healthcare facilities has decreased, abductions from the home or public places, has risen and often times the perpetrators have resorted to violence to overcome and incapacitate parents. Of note is the rise in “fetal abductions”, where term or near-term fetuses are removed from their mother’s uterus by crude cesarean sections, endangering both mother and child. Perpetrators of hospital or nonhospital abductions tend to conform to a strikingly common profile that should be known to all healthcare workers who care for women and children. Nurses are at the forefront of maternal-newborn care and can contribute to the safety and security of expectant women and their children by having a thorough knowledge of abduction risks and developing parental education programs for parents that start with the first prenatal visit and continue through the postpartum period.

Methods: A literature review on infant abduction in the United States was performed to obtain statistics on the incidence of abduction, common characteristics of perpetrators of infant abduction, and successful techniques for the prevention of infant abduction.

Results: Statistics reveal a trend away from hospitals to less secure venues for infant abduction, due to the use of technology and strict identification procedures commonly enacted in maternal-newborn units. The profile of an infant abductor remains relatively unchanged although there is a new and alarming willingness to resort to violence in order to obtain a child.

Conclusion: Although infant abduction rates are statistically small, the safety and security of mothers and newborns remains a high priority for nurses. By being aware of physical security of maternal-newborn units, educating expectant parents on the methods used by potential abductors, and working with community resources, these tragic incidents can be prevented.