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For Healthcare Professionals: Guidelines on Prevention of and Response to Infant Abductions, 2003 Seventh Edition

NCJ Number
John B. Rabun Jr.
Date Published
January 2003
92 pages
In October 2002, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) published basic information regarding healthcare organizations' security measures for preventing and responding to infant abductions from healthcare facilities; the guidelines in the current paper provide, in part, security strategies and protocols that support and enhance the JCAHO security standards.
The cases targeted for these guidelines involve the abduction of infants, birth through 6 months, for "nontraditonal" motives. Such motives stem from the offender's need to have a child to fill a perceived void in her life. Based on a study of cases from 1983 through 2002, the best estimate for the nationwide incidence of such infant abductions by nonfamily members ranges between 0 and 12 per year. The typical abduction from a healthcare facility involves an "unknown" abductor impersonating a nurse, health care employee, volunteer, or relative in order to gain access to an infant. The obstetrics unit is an open and inviting site where patients' decreased length of stay gives them less time to know and recognize staff members. The offender is almost always a female, who is frequently overweight and is generally in her early 20's. She usually has no prior criminal record. The offender is most likely compulsive, suffers from low self-esteem, often fakes one or more pregnancies, and relies on manipulation and lying in interpersonal relationships. The prevention and security guidelines for healthcare professionals are categorized as "general," proactive measures, physical-security safeguards, and a critical-incident-response plan. The latter plan contains general guidelines and guidelines for nursing, security, law enforcement, and public relations. Attention is also given to security after discharge from a maternal-child-care unit. The sites for which security guidelines are provided are special-care nurseries, pediatric units, outpatient areas, and homes. Security guidelines are also provided for parents. Other issues discussed are a security self-assessment for healthcare facilities and liability issues. A 73-item bibliography