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Child abduction

Child abduction is the act of taking a child away from their family, carer or person who has lawful control of the child without consent or lawful justification. Abduction can happen when a child is taken away, sent away or detained.

Child abduction can be committed by parents or other family members; by people known but not related to the victim, such as neighbours, friends and acquaintances; and by strangers.

The Office for National Statistics identifies 4/5 of child abductions recorded by the police as being perpetrated by someone known to the child, whilst 1/5 is not. In 2013/14 police forces in England and Wales recorded 569 offences of child abduction (Office for National Statistics, 2014).

However, many incidents – including abductions by a parent, someone known to the victim and strangers – are not reported to the police.

Four times as many attempted abductions by a stranger (186 in 2011/12) are recorded by police than completed abductions. Nearly two-thirds involved a perpetrator in a vehicle. Whilst most children suffered no injury, nearly half the victims were grabbed, dragged or held by the offender.

Three-quarters of children abducted (or attempted to be abducted) by a stranger are girls. Victims of attempted stranger abduction have an average age of 11 years. Victims of completed abduction (with a clear sexual motive) have an average age of 14 years.

Information taken from

School action

All local authorities and Police authorities deal with cases of attempted abduction and there must be a clear process for dealing with these situations which is adhered to be schools and educational settings.

This guidance should be shared with all school staff.

Whilst not wishing to distress or frighten children and young people it must be ensured that they are made aware of dangers in appropriate ways. Schools should also support parents/carers through a range of communication.

School staff must also be aware that it is not always strangers who attempt abduction and should be vigilant when releasing children and young people to those who collect them after/during school times. School policies should be reviewed on a regular basis and staff reminded of procedures.

Where school becomes aware of an incident of attempted child abduction, the following actions should be taken:

  • Concern raised immediately. (Do school policies inform parents that such incidents should be reported immediately and to whom?)
  • The concern is reported according to school procedure. 999 is dialled if the concern is an emergency otherwise 101 police number is used to report the incident.
  • Member of school staff follows school protocol in reporting incident to the named member of staff. (Who do staff report to if this person is absent?)
  • Contact is made with the police; school asks what further action they need to take, i.e. notifying the child’s parents/local schools or writing a report.
  • The school reports the incident to the local authority (Solihull Education Improvement Service 0121 7046620) supplying the crime number if necessary and the name of the officer they are liaising with.
  • The assistant director of learning and achievement is informed of the concern and asked what response they would like the service to make. In their absence, the assistant director for social care is contacted.
  • The local authority officer informs the LA communications team of the issue and what the response will be. The communications team are then kept involved in advance of any further information being issued to schools.
  • The local authority liaise with the police to clarify next steps/appropriate information to give/whether communications need to be sent out.
  • The local authority will then issue a communication on behalf of schools to the press etc.
  • The school reporting the incident decide, in partnership with the police, what the post incident response will be to reassure pupils and parents/carers.
  • Schools decide what information will be shared with their parents/carers.
  • The local authority send an appropriate communication to the head teacher/principal of all schools, including independent schools, colleges and post-16 providers.
  • All paperwork to do with the incident is stored according to the organisational policy.
  • All services reflect on their process (Does anything need to change? If so who is the change communicated to?)

Curriculum (universal provision through planned PSHE)

High quality PSHE which includes; exploration of what a ‘stranger’ is and when they might be helpful/harmful; strategies for avoiding abduction i.e. run, yell, tell, resisting ‘lures’; staying safe out and about; online safety; what to do when lost; how/who to ask for help.

Providing opportunities for children to develop resilience and fostering the development of protective factors and behaviours (i.e. listening to what your body is telling you when something feels wrong, no problem is too big, small or awful to be shared with a trusted adult) are key for all children. More information about protective behaviours can be accessed from the Safety net website and the Protective Behaviours Consortium.

The Where’s the line? Teaching resource has a lesson looking at ‘stranger danger’ which may be helpful although caution should be exercised when using the phrase’ stranger danger’ as we know that children/young people can find struggle to tell a stranger from a non-stranger; Strangers will help children (for example if they are lost or feel unsafe) more often than they will harm them; Most abductions are committed by people who are known to children. The report Beyond Stranger Danger provides further information about good practice when addressing this issue.

Updates and changes


These pages are updated regularly and should be used as the main source of information.  Printed versions should be used with care as they can become out of date.