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Stranger/Non-family Abduction:Indicators of Risk

Stranger/non-family abductions are the hardest to predict; however, there are ways parents/guardians can reduce the risk of a child being abducted.

Reasons why stranger/non-family abductions occur

An individual may abduct a child for a number of reasons. The most common reasons cited include:

  • For a sexual purpose: The majority of abductions committed by non-family members are motivated by the offender’s sexual interest in the child.
  • To exert control, aggression, or violence: These types of abductions are motivated by an offender’s desire to control, dominate, and cause harm to a child and/or a child’s family.
  • Due to emotional/mental health issues: These types of child abductions are committed by offenders with severe mental health issues. For example, a female offender who takes a very young child or newborn thinking that the child is, in fact, her child or with the desire to make the child “her own.”
  • Financial incentives/motives: These types of abductions occur because an individual intends to profit from the abduction.

Keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule, and until the child is located, it is difficult to determine the motive of their abductor.

Pay attention

It’s important for parents/guardians to pay attention to the following:

  • Individuals hanging around places where a child plays (e.g., parks, playgrounds, schools), but not accompanying or supervising any one particular child.
  • Any individual paying an unusual amount of attention to a child or children in your community.
  • Any individual blurring or breaking appropriate boundaries in an effort to befriend a child (e.g., special favours, gifts, inappropriate jokes or banter).
  • Any individual you or your child knows in a professional capacity trying to extend contact with you or child outside of their primary role (e.g., a coach of your child who offers to babysit or have sleepovers, or who begins to communicate with your child via technology (text/social media)).
  • What your child is doing online and if they talk about having met people online. If your child or a child you know tells you about an incident that may involve grooming or luring a child online, or online sexual abuse or exploitation, report the information to police or Please visit the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s website or for more information on grooming, luring, and online sexual abuse and exploitation.

The information provided above is intended for information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Readers should assess all information in light of their own circumstances, the age and maturity level of the child they wish to protect, and any other relevant factors.