Volunteer advocates child safety

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By Gayle Deaton

It's hard to imagine anything more devastating than losing a child.

That's why Tammy Morrison, a mother of two, decided to volunteer her time to promote child safety issues.

Morrison, a Finchville resident, is a board member of The Child Connection (TCC), a non-profit agency founded in 1992 that provides public awareness for child safety, as well as services for missing and exploited children and search and recovery.

Before becoming a board member, she worked as an advocate for the group. Her day job is working as a supervisor in Flight Ops Compliance for UPS. She said she first heard of TCC in 2004 while serving on the UPS Allocation Grant Committee.

"They (TCC) made such a lasting impression on me that I knew that I had to help any way that I could," Morrison said. "Maybe it's the innate nature of being a parent myself that I feel that every child is worth saving."

She said it also concerned her that she seemed to be hearing about child abductions more and more in the news.

Current statistics indicate a child goes missing every 40 seconds in the U.S. That's more than 2,100 per day or more than 800,000 children reported missing each year.

Morrison said realizing this made her aware that there's a strong need in the community for continual educational awareness to prevent future child abductions.

"For me it was a gut feeling," she said. "Have you ever felt so compelled to do something that you just knew it was right? I did."

Although Morrison works full-time, is married and has two children, ages 10 and 2, she finds the time to volunteer because it is important to her.

"My time is very precious so I feel that I have to make the most of every minute," she said. "What's really great is that I have a very understanding family that supports my efforts in wanting to make a difference. They understand my passion."

She said she also encourages others to volunteer.

"I believe that everyone should feel like they have a purpose and meaning to their life," Morrison said. "You may not always feel that you have achieved that through your work-life, or even sometimes with your home-life. By volunteering, it allows you the opportunity for purpose by making a difference in others' lives."

She currently serves as one of nine TCC board members who work to secure grants for the continuation of the Stranger Safety Program, a program available to Kentucky and Indiana schools at no charge.

The group has already educated more than 1,166,000 children.

Here are some of the safety tips they use in their program:

Yell, kick and scream. This may seem obvious but many children freeze when grabbed by strangers. Kidnappers want children to go along quietly so yell "this person is a stranger." Kick the kidnapper in the groin, knee or foot. Scream.

Make sure your child knows his or her area code and phone number but teach them not to give that information to strangers.

Have your child use a buddy system and to watch out for one another.

Maintain current photos and records on your child. Have fingerprints taken by local law enforcement agencies.

Teach your child not to fall for predator lures such as "Can you help me find my lost puppy?" or "I'll give you $10 if you help me carry something to my car," or "Do you want to see some cute kittens in my car?" Remind your children that adults they don't know should never ask children to help or to do things for them. Teach them to ignore any such requests, avoid any conversation with the adult and run to a safe place or parent.

Develop a family code word so your children know if a stranger approaches them and says "Your mom and dad have been in a car wreck -- you need to come with me now," your child can ask for the code word. They should be told if the stranger doesn't know the code word, then they should run away from that person to whoever is responsible for them such as a teacher or babysitter and explain what just happened.

Always have a separation plan if you take your child to an amusement park, mall or vacation spot so they know where to meet you if they should get separated or lost from you.

Make sure your child knows not to deviate from a specified route to or from school such as cutting through an alley or out-of-view area.

Make sure your child's school knows to notify you if your child fails to show up for school.

Keep good communication lines open with your child.

Organize a block watch and participate in a safe home program.

Make a mental note of what your child wears everyday and do not put their name on the outside of clothing because it could allow a perpetrator to become verbally intimate with your child.

Remind your child to never accept candy or gifts from a stranger.