For the purposes of this analysis, infant abductions are defined as any abduction of a child under one year of age. This type of abduction can take various forms; from a noncustodial parent abducting the infant, to a stranger abducting the child from the hospital, home, or a public place.
Risk Factors for Infant Abductions related to Healthcare
NCMEC has developed a list of characteristics from an analysis of 337 missing infants under six months of age related to healthcare occurring from 1964 through August 2022, in the United States. However, there is no guarantee an infant abductor will fit this description.
Usually a female of childbearing age who appears pregnant.
- Most likely compulsive; most often relies on manipulation, lying, and deception.
- Frequently indicates she has lost a baby or is incapable of having one.
- Often married or cohabitating; companion's desire for a baby or the abductor's desire to provide her companion with "his" baby may be the motivation for the abduction.
- Usually lives in the community where the abduction takes place.
- Frequently initially visits nursery and maternity units at more than one health care facility prior to the abduction; asks detailed questions about procedures and the maternity floor layout; frequently uses a fire exit stairwell for her escape; and may also try to abduct from the home setting.
- Usually plans the abduction, but does not necessarily target a specific infant; frequently seizes any opportunity present to abduct a baby.
- Frequently impersonates a nurse or other allied health care personnel.
- Often becomes familiar with health care staff members, staff member work routines and victim parents.
- Often demonstrates a capability to provide care to the baby once the abduction occurs, within her emotional and physical abilities.
In addition, an abductor who abducts from the home setting (is):
- More likely to be single while claiming to have a partner
- Often targets a mother whom she may find by visiting health care facilities and tries to meet the target family.
- Often plans the abduction and brings a weapon, although the weapon may not be used.
- Often impersonates a health care or social services professional when visiting the home.
By the Numbers
Total abductions of infants related to healthcare confirmed by NCMEC from 1964 to August 2022, in the USA:
Of those abducted children,
140 were taken from healthcare facilities
148 were taken from the home
49 were abducted in other locations
Total abducted infants under six months of age who remain missing:
What NCMEC is Doing About it
Educating Professionals in Prevention Strategies
As the nation’s clearinghouse about missing and sexually exploited children, NCMEC maintains statistics regarding the number and location of infant abductions and provides technical assistance and training to health care and security professionals in an effort to prevent infant abductions from occurring in their facilities. NCMEC also provides evidence-based guidance about how to respond when an infant abduction occurs and technical assistance to law enforcement during and after an incident.
Read: Latest Analysis of Infant Abduction Trends
Read: For health care professionals: Guidelines on prevention of and response to infant abductions
Watch: Safeguard Their Tomorrows - a training video and resource for hospital professionals to help prevent infant abductions from medical facilities. Note that the Latest Analysis of Infant Abduction Trends document should be referenced for the current statistics on infant abductions.
Educating Expectant Parents
Our publication, What Parents Need to Know, provides tips for expectant parents for keeping their newborn safe while at the hospital and in their transition into their new life at home.
Helping Recover Missing Children
Team Adam is a rapid response unit made up of former and retired law enforcement professionals which can be deployed directly to the scene of a child’s disappearance to offer assistance to investigators and families in cases of critically missing children.
The ADAM Program quickly distributes missing child posters to police, news media, schools, businesses, medical centers and other recipients within a specific geographic search areas. The public can also help by signing up to receive missing child alerts in their area.
Providing Emotional Support and Professional Referrals
Coping with the experience of a child abduction demands courage and determination on the part of the victim, parents and guardians, and other family members. NCMEC offers victim and family support through a team of dedicated professionals who work with law enforcement and families to provide reunification assistance and referrals. NCMEC can also locate short and long term support for families through local victim advocates and mental health agencies.