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A needs assessment is necessary to determine the child abduction risks and potential solutions for any particular hospital, says John B. Rabun, ACSW, director of infant abduction response at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in Alexandria, VA.
Too often, he says, hospitals jump to implement expensive technological solutions without really understanding their true needs.
Rabun recalls an incident at a hospital that delivers about 8,000 babies per year, with a freestanding women’s pavilion. Hospital leaders asked Rabun to join their committee formed to address the infant abduction risk. He was surprised to see the committee meeting with one technology vendor after another, looking for the right tagging system.
When he pointed out that they had not conducted a needs assessment to determine if a tagging system was even necessary, hospital leaders explained that two of their much smaller sister hospitals in the same healthcare system had purchased tagging systems with funds raised by local civic organizations, and it looked bad for the big hospital not to have one.
"I could see how the C-suite folks might think that way, but I didn’t see the data to support that decision," Rabun says. "Just because of the way the hospital was built, it was target-hardened. Some facilities are built so that it’s not impossible, but it’s pretty darned hard to get in there and walk out with a child. They had egress delay on all the fire stairwell doors, and all the elevators all opened into a common lobby that was staffed 24 hours a day by people trained to watch for people with babies and check IDs."
The hospital did a needs assessment and decided to go ahead with a tagging system, but one that was less elaborate and configured differently than what they originally had planned.