Identifying the Profile of Infant Abductors who Strike Hospitals

March 15, 2007
NCMEC releases information on profile of criminal involved in infant abductions from hospitals

Following the case of the infant abducted from a Texas hospital last week, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) responded with a fact sheet on these kinds of abductions.

According to NCMEC, the group has worked with 940 hospitals across the United States since 1987, when it put into effect a program to train healthcare workers of these kinds of threats. As part of the process, the NCMEC offers site security/risk assessments and training programs, and now says it has trained 61,000 workers in the healthcare field. The group has also made available prevention materials such as its "For Healthcare Professionals: Guidelines on Prevention of and Response to Infanct Abductions" (2005, 8th edition) and its digital video "Safeguard Their Tomorrows-III".

The NCMEC has also helped establish a profile of typical infant abductor. The group lists the following attributes in that profile:

-- The abductor is usually female of "childbearing" age (12 to 50), and is often overweight.
-- The abductor usually is compulsive and frequently relies on manipulation, lying and deception to gain access.
-- The abductor usually states she has lost a baby, or is incapable of having a child.
-- The abductor is often married or is cohabiting with a male companion.
-- Usually, the companion has a desire to have a child, or the abductor has a desire to provide her companion with "his" child. Often that is the motivation for the abduction.
-- Frequently, the abductor lives or is familiar with the community where the abduction takes place.
-- The abductor usually visits the nursery or maternity ward at more than one healthcare facility prior to the abduction, and has asked detailed questions about procedures and the maternity floor layout.
-- The abductor frequently uses a fire exit stairwell for her escape, and may also try to abduct from the home setting.
-- While the abductor usually plans the abduction ahead of time, she does not necessarily target a specific infant and frequently seizes any opportunity present.
-- The abductor frequently impersonates a nurse or other allied healthcare personnel.
-- The abductor frequently becomes familiar with healthcare staff, staff work routines, and victim parents.
-- The abductor demonstrates a capability to provide "good" care to the baby once the abduction occurs.

Fortunately, there's been some good news.

"In the past 24 years, 95% of abducted infants and newborns have been recovered safely. Overwhelmingly, that success has been because of the power of the media to mobilize the eyes and ears of the public," said NCMEC President and CEO Ernie Allen.

Despite that seemingly positive number, the fact that 5 percent of abducted infants and newborns are not recovered is a siren call that we all have to do better at prevention and recovery.