President Bush is taking action in response to a series of highly publicized kidnappings in the United States. Mr. Bush says steps are needed to better protect America's children.

In recent months, the nation has witnessed the kidnappings and murders of children in several states.

Crimes in which youngsters are nabbed and killed by strangers are rare. But there is growing concern around the country and at the White House that these cases are becoming far too common. "Our nation has come to know the names and faces of too many wonderful children because they have been the victims of despicable acts of violence," the president said.

President Bush said "hopeful and practical" steps are needed to better protect America's children. During an early morning appearance in the White House rose garden, he said the nation must band together. "The kidnapping or murder of a child is every parents' worst nightmare," he said. "Today, I call on all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and our communities and our citizens to work together to do everything in our power to better protect our children."

The president said he will convene a White House conference on missing, runaway, and exploited children in Washington in late September. He also announced the release of a 16-page child safety guide for parents and children. It will be distributed through schools and on the Internet. "I urge families to get these recommendations and to discuss the important safety tips with their children," said President Bush.

The child safety guide says in 1999, the last year for which complete statistics are available, about 58,000 children were abducted by non-family members, usually in connection with another crime. About 115 cases were the most dangerous types of abductions, those carried out by strangers in which the child was kept overnight, held for ransom or killed.