Expert: New moms should know dangers of infant abductions

By Stacy

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- Danielle Tamez is a mother of three. She had her first two children in hospitals, but chose to have now-3-month-old Olivia in a birthing center so she wouldn't lose sight of her baby.

"She never left my side. They do everything in the room with you," Tamez said.

It's quite a difference from her experience at a hospital with her first two. There, she said it was chaotic.

"You're scared because you're not home. There are a lot of different people. Nurses coming and going off shift. Doctors coming in and out. They took her away for the entire night. They didn't have rooming in. I had to go look for her in the morning," she said.

Like many mothers, Tamez was reunited with her baby. But for a very small minority of mothers, that's not the case. The U.S. averages about two infant abductions from health care providers per year, according to John Rabun, director of infant abduction response with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The abductors have a type, he said.

"She's a con artist," he said.

Rabun explained how sometimes desperate people, usually women, lie or sneak their ways in to hospitals and maternity wards.

"They say it's as if the nurses left a baby unattended in the bassinet in the middle of a lobby. 'I just happen to walk in and it was clear to me that nobody really wanted the baby so I decided I'd take it home.' They're so convincing that you start feeling sorry for them," he said.

He said Shavonda Hinson and Kim Alston fit that description. Charleston Police were suspicious of them last month when they showed up at a hospital with an empty baby stroller. Each one claimed to be pregnant and sought doctor appointments several times over a five-month period. However, police said neither committed any crime.

"Security notified Charleston Police. Wow. It worked. And consequently, we're sitting here smiling because no crime was committed," Rabun said.

Rabun said families need to ask for nurses' identifications, remember their names and listen to their maternal instincts.

"She can't take her eyes off of her newborn," he said.

Mothers also must stay alert once they bring babies home. If the snatching attempt fails in the hospital, they may come to the new mother's front door, Rabun said.

Lawn decorations may be the key to getting inside.

"Some of those devices have way too much area on them that you fill in information like mother's full name," Rabun said.

He advised families to look out for people who say they know them. He said only put information about the baby on storks or other lawn decorations. Do not include information about adults in the family, especially the mother.

"Young parents need to know that everybody who knocks on your door may not be in your best interest," he said.

Rabun said 30-percent of cases involving new mothers who let strangers in to their house end in murder.

Tamez said she was warned about the dangers of public information when she had her first daughter. So, instead, they decorated with balloons and streamers inside the house.

She also said she always keeps her baby in a carrier on her body, rather than a stroller or car seat. She said it makes her feel more secure with her baby and keeps more strangers away.

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