7News just shared this story, quoting a post from the Northern Beaches Mums Facebook group written by a mum named Amy.
“He was missing for 15 minutes”
Amy explained that her parents had taken her little boy out shopping when he disappeared from sight.
“My mum and dad took my three-year-old son to Kmart today and my son decided to hide,” Amy reportedly posted in the group. “He was missing for 15 minutes.”
So scary and such a long time to have your little one out of view for so long.
“My dad stayed at the front entrance to catch him on the way out if he tried to leave,” Amy explained, but a request to alert customers to the fact that her little boy was wandering through the store unaccompanied was rejected.
“They asked to make an announcement and they were refused saying they couldn’t due to [a] child protection issue,” Amy continued.
“What else could be done in this situation to help find a lost or hiding child in a store?” she asked others in the group.
“We’re not allowed to”
It’s a brilliant question and other parents in the group had some interesting information to share about store policy where they worked.
“I work in a retail store and when we have a missing child, we call all available staff to the front and let them know the situation and then go looking for the child,” one woman posted.
“We’re not allowed to announce that there’s a missing child anymore,” another retail worker wrote. “because of child protection policies. We used to announce what the child was wearing, but now we’re not allowed to even mention there’s a child missing.”
It’s such a difficult situation for parents whose children have wandered out of sight, especially when – very rarely – there are opportunistic child predators lurking around toy aisles of stores.
In December of 2018, 26-year-old father-of-two, Sterling Free was in a Kmart at a Westfield near Brisbane when he approached a little girl and simply told her “follow me”.
The little girl did follow and was driven away from the shopping centre and sexually assaulted, before being returned 90 minutes later.
Keeping kids safe
Yahoo has quoted Kmart as saying they actually don’t have a policy banning lost child announcements in store.
“We deeply apologise for the miscommunication that has occurred here,” a Kmart spokesperson apparently told Yahoo.
“The safety and welfare of our customers is our number one priority, and we want everyone who visits us instore to have an enjoyable experience. We are sorry that on this occasion, this has not occurred. We will be re-educating all store team members this morning.”
It’s clear that some work needs to be done on creating a default child safety policy in stores and shopping centres across the country.
What would you do?
Amy’s post is a brilliant reminder of how important it is to keep a watchful eye on kids when you’re out of and about – and to have some idea of how you’d respond if your child did disappear from sight.
If this does happen to you, know that the staff do want to help and you should seek assistance from them as quickly as possible. Many stores do have a clear strategy in place for these sorts of circumstances.
There are other things parents can do to avoid this situation, too.
Some parents are opting to use devices like My Buddy Tag – a bracelet that can track the location of littlies via GPS – to give themselves peace of mind when they head out with a little wanderer.
And mums and dads who are travelling with kids are using SafetyTat – a temporary tattoo with their phone number on it – to ensure that if their child does do a runner, that they can be contacted immediately.
Food for thought, indeed.