Back to School Stranger Safety

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

We recently traveled down to Sarasota, Florida to teach our latest lesson on Stranger Safety Awareness to the residents of the city where Carlie Brucia was abducted back in 2004.  The back to school event, sponsored by AutoNation, was to help bring more awareness to students as they ended the summer and prepared to get back into the school year.  Although Carlie’s abduction was extremely personal to me and many of her hometown residents, the occurrence of child abductions has started to have happier endings since 2004.  When the Department of Justice examined the latest 8,000 failed child abductions, they discovered that 83% of the time the child escaped because the child knew what to do to escape.

Firstly, I don’t know about you, but the first thing that stands out about that statistic is that there have been 8,000 attempted abductions of late.  This number scares the heck out of me since I am in the business of reducing child abductions.  I hear time and again on news interviews, other “experts” touting that child abductions by strangers are very rare and you have a very small chance of that ever happening to your child.  Well, I have news for these “experts”:  It did happen to my family. The effect was DEVASTATING.  It was very real to us and the entire community where it occurred and you should make it a priority to at least introduce your child to the concepts of stranger safety awareness.  Over 21,000 children under the age of 18 are abducted annually by a complete stranger according to the U.S. Department of Justice.  This number is extremely serious and extremely real.  You can do something to help your children – go to and start watching the free videos with your children and follow the suggestions presented by certified teachers who volunteer their expertise on behalf of your child’s safety.

Secondly, 83% of the last 8,000 attempted abductions have had a positive outcome because the child knew what to do!  I love it! It shows we are making progress. The entire reason this foundation exists is to teach children what to do BEFORE a stranger approaches.  Keeping children thinking about the fact that a stranger belongs at arm’s length and not to be treated as a long-lost friend will only benefit them as they gain independence as they age.

Here are a few tips as your child returns to school:

1) Define the word STRANGER: Any person that you do not know.

2) Advise your child never to go anywhere with a STRANGER.

3) Remind your child that STRANGERS may lie to get your child to trust or like them.

4) Teach your child to use the BUDDY SYSTEM and never go anywhere alone.

5) Establish a SECRET WORD with your child – tell them that anyone who claims to be sent by you to pick them up MUST state the word in order for them to go anywhere with that person.

Many thanks to Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation, for taking the time to bring The Stranger Safety Awareness Program to the community of Sarasota, Florida.  We were honored to be invited! Please feel free to share our free program at on our free curriculum page with your local PTA, elementary school or Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts program – we have no restrictions on copying and sharing.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.


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