Most abductions don’t happen in mother’s room

The labor and delivery department may be where the risk of infant abductions is greatest, but it is far from the only area of the hospital needing a risk manager’s attention. Children are often taken from other areas of the hospital that may not receive as much attention.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which monitors infant abductions of all types, reports that when infants are taken from health care facilities, they are taken from the mother’s room only 40% of the time.1 The hospital nursery was the site of 10% of abductions.

"Another location for infant abduction is a facility’s pediatric room. This room was the location of 13 cases or 10.9% of the cases studied," according to the report. "In most cases, the infant was hospitalized for an illness such as a feeding problem, digestive disorder, fever, meningitis, or bacterial infection."

Baby taken from peds unit

The NCMEC provides this example of an actual abduction from a pediatric unit: The morning hospital shift had just begun and the day nurse, in checking her assignment of infants, noted that a 23-day-old boy was not in his crib. He had been hospitalized for a digestive disorder and was due to be discharged that day. The night nurse had reported that the mother had been in during that shift caring for him.

At first, staff members thought that the mother may have taken the infant home, but a check showed that was incorrect. The infant then was reported missing, and local law enforcement was notified and began an investigation. The news media covered the story extensively.

The infant was recovered the next day at the home of one of the abductors. The two female abductors were visiting relatives at the hospital on another floor when they were told of an "abandoned baby" in pediatrics. They decided to pose as employees and entered the pediatrics unit. A nurse challenged the abductors when they asked her which infant was abandoned, but it is theorized that the women took the infant when the nurse left the unit for dinner.

Nurse impostor takes baby in clinic

In 7.6% of cases, the infant was abducted from some other area of the premises of the health care facility. These locations included clinics, corridors, waiting rooms, the parking lot, and curbside.

Here is an example from the NCMEC: Parents brought their 8-week-old daughter to the pediatric clinic for her checkup, registered at the desk, and went to the waiting room. A woman they thought was a nurse approached them. The woman, who was wearing a nurse’s uniform, took the infant and mother into the treatment area where the infant was given an injection. The infant and mother were sent back to the waiting area, and then the woman returned shortly to ask if she could hold the infant.

Before the mother could say anything the imposter picked up the infant and said that she was going to show her to the other nurses. The mother objected, but the woman kept walking and said that she didn’t need any more children because she already had two of her own. Two or three minutes went by, and the mother went to find the woman and her daughter, but they were gone.

The baby was recovered six months later when a relative of the abductor reported her suspicions.

Reference

1. Burgess AW, Lanning KV. An Analysis of Infant Abductions. Alexandria, VA: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; July 2003.