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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Safety Tip Tuesday: Child Safety vs. "Stranger Danger"

“Stranger Danger” has long been the unofficial slogan for child safety education. The go-to buzz phrase referrers to parents and professionals trying to educate children about the dangers involving abduction and sexual abuse. As well-intended and catchy as the slogan is, it is rather old school, and not in a cool retro hipster way either. The term itself is dated, elicits misconceptions and is a dire over-simplification of interpersonal safety.

The reality is that children are much more likely to be victimized by someone they know and trust. Statistics show: 


  • Approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 are reported missing annually.
  • More than 200,000 children were abducted by family members.
  • More than 58,000 children were abducted by non-family members.
  • An estimated 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” or “stranger” kidnapping.
  • More than 350,000 children were reported as runaways/throwaways

Sexual Abuse**

  • An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, childcare providers, neighbors.
  • About 30% of perpetrators are family members, e.g., fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins.
  • Just 10% of perpetrators are strangers to the child.
  • Not all perpetrators are adults - an estimated 23% of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of 18.

These statistics affirm that those who victimize children are not strangers to the child, they are most often known by the victim. The abductors and offenders are not dirty, menacing strangers; they are respectable citizens – parents, teachers, coaches, police officers.  The perpetrators are often people with frequent and legitimate access to the child, and may even be someone the child initially trust and likes.

So what can parents do? First, communicate with your children and empower them. Reinforce positive messages and safety skills that will not only build a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence, but also help keep them safer. Teach your children to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations. Encourage children to trust their instincts (that gut feeling)and provide them with steps they can take to remove themselves from these situations, and who they can turn to for help.

Next, play the “what if” game and make safety lessons part of everyday life. You can do it anywhere with children of all ages (heck, I even use it with my wife sometimes). Whether it is checking first with a trusted adult, using the “buddy system,” or avoiding and getting out of potentially dangerous situations, turn these scenarios into “what ifs” that you can practice with your children to make sure they understand and “get it.” Turn outings to a mall or the park a “teachable moment” to make sure your children understand the safety lessons and are able to use them in real-life situations. This method will also reassure your children that you are there for them, and remind them that there are other good people (firemen, mothers with children) who also are able to help them. This opportunity affords children chance to test their skills while in a safe setting.

In short, children do not need to be scared straight or told the world is a horrible place. They need to be told that you love them, trust them, believe them and that if anyone ever touches them or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way, they should tell you or a trusted adult. Because truth be told, the majority of adults in a child’s life are good people. After all, we all turn to strangers for help every time we call 9-1-1.

Safety Tip Tuesday (#CQISTT) is a weekly post that addresses child safety, ideas, concepts and fundamental approaches that help protect children from kidnapping, abuse and exploitation. Sign-up to follow this blog and receive updates. Written by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International. 

*Statistic Source: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
** Statistic Source:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tech Writer Helps Parents With Good Advice

Technology is an ever evolving revolving door of apps, gadgets, devices and anything else with a Wi-Fi signal. Just when we begin to get the hang of one aspect, some 13 year-old has created the next step in the tech evolution process.

Luckily, there is the good ol’ internet and its infinite wisdom. Some of that wisdom can be found in the Modern Family section at Columnist Dan Tynan openly discusses his experience with technology as a tech writer and parent. And he follows one of the best guidelines possible: real talk for real results.

For any parent looking for guidance on finding the right products, privacy and privileges regarding children in a tech driven world, Dan’s column is a must read. I have become a regular reader and highly recommend you become one too. By Anthony Gonzalez

Here are a few of my recent favorites:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Safety Tip Tuesday: Creating Safe Communications

It is important to lay the groundwork for dialogue about abuse and kidnapping early in a child’s development. Parents and child caretakers can do this by encouraging children to talk about their feelings. Take the time to ask about a child’s day, and about the people they encountered on and offline. Ask if there are any problems they are having. By creating an open dialogue with children - especially about the things that make them scared, embarrassed, or sad - you make it easier for them to tell you about potentially dangerous situations they’ve encountered with other children, teenagers, and/or adults.

Let your children know that there is a difference between a good secret and a bad secret. A good secret is a secret that is fun to keep, like a surprise party or gift. A “bad secret” is a secret that feels bad to keep, or a secret about a touch, especially if it was unwanted or made them feel confused or bad in any way. Ask them to inform you if anyone tells them to keep a bad secret, and stress that getting help when they need it doesn’t make them a “tattle tale” and that you will always be there for them.

In order to increase the likelihood that a child will disclose sexual abuse should it occur, it is important that parents/trusted adults use names for the private parts of a child’s body that do not suggest that private parts are “bad.” Try to avoid terms like “uh oh” or “naughty parts” when using names. If a child thinks that it is not alright to talk about their private parts appropriately, they will be less likely to discuss sexual abuse should it occur. Also reinforce when it is appropriate for their private parts to be touched by a parent/trusted adult (like a mom giving a baby a bath), and when it is inappropriate (like school, sports, church, etc).

One of the hardest things about creating a supportive atmosphere for communication is allowing a child to say “no” to an unwanted touch or an unwanted invitation – even when we know it is not really dangerous. Children need to be able to say “no” to an unwanted pinch on the cheek (or other socially accepted but sometimes unwanted gestures) without getting in trouble in order to be able to say “no” assertively to potentially dangerous situations. 

Safety Tip Tuesday (#CQISTT) is a weekly post that addresses child safety, ideas, concepts and fundamental approaches that help protect children from kidnapping, abuse and exploitation. Sign-up to follow this blog and receive updates. Written by Kirsten Stoutemyer, Ph.D. for Child Quest International. Edited by Anthony Gonzalez

Friday, January 17, 2014

Supporters “Keep Hope Alive” for Sierra LaMar
A local fundraiser supporting the Sierra LaMar fund, which makes ongoing search efforts possible, looked to be a success Thursday night in Morgan Hill. Even customers who were not aware of the fundraiser were happy to contribute to the cause.

Ongoing search volunteer, Debbie Kunz-Nunes, helped to organize this local grassroots fundraiser with the support of Morgan Hill restaurant, Margaritas Bar & Grill.

According to the event’s organizer, Debbie Kunz Nunes, “the evening was a huge success. I have a new love for the Morgan Hill community.”

Family, friends and volunteers filled the restaurant with smiles and hope while raising 15% of the night’s proceeds for the search fund and reward money offered to anyone who provides information leading to the prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for Sierra’s disappearance.

It’s been more than a year and a half since Sierra’s vanished and the arrest of Antolin Garcia Torres, the lead suspect in the in Sierra’s disappearance.

Garcia Torres appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court last Thursday when he, again, refused to enter a plea.

The ongoing delay is characterized in court documents (PDF) as a back-and-forth between prosecutors and defense attorneys over the sharing of evidence. But dispute appears to have been settled, and the defense is supposedly just asking for more time to review the evidence.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge, Sharon Chatman, refused to enter a plea on Antolin’s behalf and set a new hearing date for March 3. At that time, it is expected that a date for the preliminary hearing will be set, and Garcia Torres should also enter a plea.

Written by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International
Additional source: NBC Bay Area

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 AMBER Alert Updates

AMBER Alert Twitter Account @AMBERAlert

Nationally (well, really anywhere with an internet connection) you can now receive AMBER Alerts in your Twitter feed.

The Twitter account, @AMBERAlert, will provide followers with updates on AMBER Alerts for missing children. Twitter users, who follow the account, will automatically receive all AMBER Alerts in their Twitter feed from all across the country.

"Since it was created in 1996, the Amber Alert program has grown into a powerful national network that has helped to safely recover 679 abducted children," Karol V. Mason, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs and National Amber Alert Coordinator, said in a news release. "By adding Twitter to the network, we greatly enhance our ability to reach the public and are able to make this important public safety tool even more effective."

The Twitter account will be managed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Elsewhere in new AMBER Alert developments, the Illinois Lottery has embraced a creative new way to use Lottery LED terminals.

AMBER Alerts will be posted throughout Illinois using the Lottery's LED terminals in all 8,200 locations that participate in the Lottery throughout the state. The LED terminals will show photographs and information to help locate child victims of abduction.

 "It's just a partnership that makes a whole lot of sense. We have this fairly new technology in all of our stores, and we can use it for this good cause to hopefully save kids that have been abducted and we can quickly respond to that," said Mark Lang of the Illinois Lottery. 

The Illinois Lottery LED terminals will keep AMBER Alerts as long as the alert is in effect. An approach we hope to see other State Lottery's embrace in 2014.

For more information about AMBER Alerts, including the history of the program, visit

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Safety Tip Tuesday: Keep It Real

One of the greatest challenges facing parents and child care takers is developing a way to talk to children about their personal safety… without creating the boogieman in the process. 

It frightens children (and teens) to hear about the horrible things that can happen to them if kidnapped. By the time children are able to read, they have already been exposed to these horror stories via television news programs, Lifetime Network movies and the information superhighway (Internet). So, it is not surprising that children often associate the worst when thinking of these possibilities. 

In an age of social media and never ending news-feeds, we often gravitate towards the extreme when we discover information through these channels. And while the dangers of abduction are real, learning and practicing safety skills can reduce a child’s fear, resulting in a child who can assertively use safety behaviors to deal with dangerous situations.

Parents and child care takers can approach children with the issues of abduction (and abuse) the same way we approach them with issues of fire or earthquake safety. We can assure children that the chances of being kidnapped by a stranger are quite low, and we can teach them some techniques that will keep them safer. By focusing on common-sense abduction prevention strategies, rather than on the horrible things that might happen to them, we increase a child's ability to deal with dangerous situations and reduce their fears. 

Use common-sense with age-appropriateness when discussing these topics. Older children will respect you and the discussion more if you don’t “sugar coat” it or try to “scare them straight.” Remember, real talk for real results. #CQISTT 

Safety Tip Tuesday (#CQISTT) is a weekly post that addresses child safety, ideas, concepts and fundamental approaches that help protect children from kidnapping, abuse and exploitation. Sign-up to follow this blog and receive updates. Written by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International.

Monday, January 13, 2014

National AMBER Alert Awareness Day Celebrated with Poster Contest

2013 National Winning Poster
Today marks the 18th anniversary of the AMBER Alert system. AMBER Alert is a program of voluntary cooperation between broadcasters, cable providers, and local and state agencies to enhance the public's ability to assist in recovering abducted children. AMBER Alert notification is supported by the AMBER Alert Web Portal and the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

AMBER Alert, which stands for "American's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response," was created law enforcement and media representatives in Arlington, Texas in 1996 after the kidnapping and brutal murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman.

To bring awareness to the issue of missing children, child safety and the AMBER Alert Program, the *California Missing Persons Clearinghouse, in association with Child Quest International (CQI), will participate in the 2014 National Missing Children Poster Contest.

The United States Department of Justice annually sponsors this national poster contest to help raise awareness about child safety. The purpose of the contest is to exhibit America's effort to bring missing children home safely, while highlighting the importance of preemptive education programs. Student involvement in the poster contest promotes peer education, while captivating students to explore and understand the theme "Bring Our Missing Children Home."

Contest Rules:
  1. Applicants must be in the 5th grade
  2. Artwork should reflect the theme "Bring Our Missing Children Home." The phrase must appear on the poster
  3. May be created using acrylics, watercolor, pencils, charcoal, magic markers, spray paint, crayons, pastels, etc. Do not use digitally produced images, collages, cut-outs or stamping
  4. Finished poster must measure 8 1/2 x 14 inches
  5. The poster must be submitted with a completed application and waiver
  6. All entries must be postmarked by February 1, 2014. The poster and application should be sent to: California Department of Justice, Attn: Missing Children Clearinghouse, 4949 Broadway, Room B-216, Sacramento, CA 95820
  7. Email to inform us of your entry. Subject line: MCD 2014
The winning poster of the California Poster Contest will be sent to the National Contest for judging. The national winner, along with their teacher and parents, will travel to Washington, D.C. to receive an award and participate in the Missing Children's Day ceremony, May 25, 2014. 

*The contest is open to all US 5th grade students. To have your child participate outside of California, please find the State Manager for your state here. Same rules apply, but entry deadline may vary.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Safety Tip Tuesday: DIY

If you think someone else is going to teach your child how to be safe or what to do in dangerous situations, think again. Talk to your children regularly about their personal safety and healthy boundaries regarding friendships, bullies, teachers/coaches, drugs, sex, “strangers” and anything (or anyone!) they may be feeling “confused, uncomfortable or unsure” about. And be prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly… so don’t over (or under) react.

There are great resources you can incorporate that will guide you and your child through these discussions. And if you are a parent who is uncomfortable or unsure of how to address these concerns, don’t be afraid. Some local police departments and nonprofits provide presentations upon request. These options are ideal for starting the conversation, but it is up to you to maintain the ongoing conversation about these ever present issues. The worst thing you could do, is to do nothing or think “it’ll never happen to my kids.”

The point is, you, the parent, must make sure your child is offered the opportunity to understand their personal safety and what it means to “be safe" (both on and offline… or in the cloud or wherever!). Always remember, communication is the key to any successful relationship… this means kids too. And trust me, your kids don’t want to get hurt just as much as you don’t want them to get hurt. #CQISTT 

Safety Tip Tuesday (#CQISTT) is a weekly post that addresses child safety, ideas, concepts and fundamental approaches that help protect children from kidnapping, abuse and exploitation. Sign-up to follow this blog and receive updates. Written by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sierra LaMar Fundraiser @ Margaritas Bar & Grill in Morgan Hill, CA

Thursday, January 16th 2014 sadly marks the 22nd month of Sierra LaMars' disappearance. Margaritas Bar & Grill of Morgan Hill, has offered to host a fundraiser in which 15% of the proceeds will go to the Sierra LaMar search effort!!! Please print flyer and bring it with you to participate. Thank you. For more information about ongoing search efforts, please visit 

Date: Jan 16, 2014 | Time: 5-9p
Where: Margarita's Bar and Grill
Location: 411 Vineyard Town Center (next to TJ Maxx), Morgan Hill, Ca
Phone: 408-439-4699