Raylene Ochsenbine a proud new grandmother made a beautiful pink welcome home sign to show how joyful she felt at the birth of her new granddaughter, Abigale Lynn Woods. She placed the welcome home baby sign with colorful balloons in the front yard of her daughter Stephenie Ochsenbine’s rural Missouri home. Yet, Raylene never imagined her term of endearment could endanger either her granddaughter or daughter.
Big bright storks, colorful welcome home signs, balloons, and banners placed in front yards are a common way for new parents to announce the arrival of a new baby. Yet, these very public displays of endearment are not encouraged by hospitals, police departments, fire departments and even the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Private information should be kept private, and not put on public display.
During the search for Baby Abby, police speculated whether a metal welcome home yard sign had played a part in baby Abby’s kidnapping. In court papers filed regarding the kidnapping of baby Abby, the FBI confirmed the homemade metal yard sign did play a role in Baby Abby’s abduction. According to authorities, "the suspect was drawn to the home of the newborn's mother, by a lawn sign that said it’s a girl!"
Statistically according to the FBI, there have been 217 nonfamily abductions of infants, since 1983 until 2002. About 2/3 of these abductions occurred in healthcare settings, between the hours of 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. A surprising fact, until I realized that during the busy daytime people walking around looking or acting like hospital employees or even visitors would not stand out.
In addition, thirty abductions occurred after infants discharged from the hospital and went home. Potential kidnappers often easily gain access to homes with newborns by simply answering an ad posted in a local paper looking to hire a baby-sitter. Others posed as a healthcare worker making a follow-up visit for postnatal care.
For these same safety reasons, many hospitals no longer provide newspaper birth announcements, and if parents wish to place such ad, the parent must contact the newspaper directly. If a hospital provides an online web nursery for newborns, only the first name of the baby is visible.
Parents need to protect their child’s identity from the moment they arrive. This includes considering carefully what information is given out and to whom the information is shared. Identity theft is a huge issue. A child’s Social Security Number [SSN] is like gold.
Parents should not give out a child’s social security number to anyone, and if someone insists they need the number, parents must play an active role in protecting a child’s identity. Parents have the right to ask why the number is needed and how will the number be protected if given out. With identity theft the question is no longer will it happen but when will it happen. Not even an infant is safe from having his or her identity stolen. Parent’s need to check the child’s credit history yearly, beginning on the child’s first birthday to be sure no one has taken advantage of the child’s information.
Shortly after writing this article originally, I received a press release from a Michelle Reed, President of the International Lawn Greetings Association. In the press release it said, "a birth announcement in the yard alerts the neighbors when the child arrives so those neighbors can keep an extra eye out for the family.”
Sixteen years ago, I arrived home with my daughter to find a 6-foot tall pink stork perched in my front yard. Painted on the front was my daughter’s first and middle name, date of birth, length, and weight. The stork birth announcement made me feel extremely vulnerable and I demanded its removal immediately.
Like Abby’s grandma, the intention behind the stork was from well-meaning and happy new grandparents who were celebrating a new baby homecoming. However, even today when I see a yard sign in front of a house my heart begins to race. I always say a special silent prayer for the family as I drive by the house, because I realize just as I can see the private information displayed on the yard sign, so can anyone else driving by that house, and so many of them are not neighbors, only strangers passing down the road.
Thankfully the sister of Abby’s abductor, noticed makeup covering a birthmark on the baby’s forehead and she chose to confront the woman who kidnapped baby Abby, she is a true hero. It is because of her Abby is safe at home with her family. I believe the birthmark between Abby’s eyes is actually a kiss from her guardian angel!