Seize the Moment to Protect Children from Abduction By Sherrie Gladden-Davis, The Indianapolis Star February 6, 2005 Once again, the people of Indiana are mourning the loss of another child. Police made an arrest in the abduction and killing of 10-year-old Katlyn "Katie" Collman, who disappeared near her Crothersville home last week and was found dead north of Seymour on Sunday. Like many, I wondered why state law enforcement took two days to issue an Amber Alert. Time, specifically the first two hours after a disappearance, is the most important factor in the outcome of a missing-child search. Officials say they must have enough descriptive information, such as a vehicle make and model, to be useful to the public, but they need to rethink this requirement. Not all abductors use a vehicle, and many of these victims are found in their own neighborhoods, not miles away. (Most missing people are brought home by identification through a picture.) Katie Collman was the first child to die under Indiana's two-year-old Amber Alert system. Issuing an immediate warning might have prevented that. We can also help stop these tragedies through awareness, communication and education. There are 125,000 attempted abductions reported each year in the United States. Of these, 120,000 are thwarted because either an adult intervened or the children took action to defend themselves. Children need our permission to question adults and protect themselves. They need to be told it is OK to kick and scream if they feel threatened by a stranger. One ploy abductors often use is to say that the child's parents have sent them to pick up him or her. Each family should have a code word or phrase known only within the family. If confronted with this situation, a child simply has to ask the person to repeat the code. If he or she can't, it's time to raise the alarm. Calling attention to the situation is usually all that is needed to stop an attempted abduction. The main objective of the abductor is to not get caught. Escape School (www.escapeschool.com) has wonderful programs that it presents to schools and organizations. Most of them are intended for school-age children, but there are also a few for preschoolers. My daughters found so little available for their 4-year-olds that they asked me to write bedtime stories on such topics as stranger abduction and home safety. My granddaughters star as the heroines who take the appropriate actions to ensure their safety. Based on the cases I have studied, the older a child is, the less likely it is that he or she will be found alive because older victims have the ability to identify their abductors. In order to not get caught, the abductor often is unwilling to leave witnesses. It's too late for us to save Katie Collman, but, as parents, we can still learn from her death: Give children the confidence and power to speak up in uncomfortable situations. Keep current photos -- no more than a year old -- of all your children that accurately depict how they look now. Keep your eyes open. Dangerous situations don't always look dangerous to the outside observer at first glance, and not all abductors are strangers. Start early. These lessons can become second nature for kids later, when the risk is greater. When children are abducted, we have precious few hours to find them unharmed, but we have all the time in the world to educate them before it happens. I urge all parents to use that gift of time. Gladden-Davis speaks to victims' families on the importance of family participation in missing-persons investigations. She is the author of the true-life story My Sister Is Missing (Emmis Books).