Meridian Star

January 25, 2013

Child ID program coming to schools

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     A missing child is a parent's worst nightmare.

    At this time when emotions are running high along with the anxiety of fearing for the child's welfare, parents often can't give law enforcement accurate, up to date information pertaining to their missing child. That is why Ident-A-Kid fills a much valued void for both parents and law enforcement, proponents say.

    The award winning program is coming to Lauderdale County elementary schools in February and March. Ident-A-Kid of Mississippi will provide services at West Lauderdale Elementary School on Feb. 26, Northeast Elementary School on Feb. 27, Southeast Elementary School on Feb. 28, and Clarkdale Elementary School on March 1. The program will start at 9 a.m. at each location. The program involves taking a picture of the child, getting a fingerprint, and a physical description. This information is put on an ID card the size of a driver's license and given to the parent to keep in a handy place if the unimaginable should ever happen.

    JuliAnna Wynne, owner of Mississippi's Ident-A-Kid program, knows how difficult and emotional a situation involving a missing child can be for parents.

    "There is not a database for all of our children; there is only the database at The National Center of Missing Children if they are missing, which most people are not aware of," Wynne said. "It is so important to educate parents ahead of time, so they are always prepared to show all information at the scene, not an hour later when too much time has passed and it is impossible to get on the right track in recovering the child."

    According to the FBI, as of Dec. 31, 2011, The National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) Missing Person File contained 85,158 active missing person records. Juveniles under the age of 18 account for 37,371 (43.9 percent) of the records and 9,832 (11.5  percent) were for juveniles between the ages of 18 and 20.

    The U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children say a predator attempts to abduct a child every 4.5 minutes. More than 150 children are abducted every day.

    Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said there are about 235 registered sex offenders in the county. Given that number and the frequency in which children are the target of abductions, he said parents should take advantage of this opportunity to get the very latest information about their children documented.

    "We as law enforcement need the most up to date information on a child," Sollie said. "Children grow so quickly and their appearance is constantly changing. For us to have the latest and most accurate information helps us immensely in getting the information out to all agencies in order to find the child before something tragic happens."

    Although parents may know their child's age, and the color of their hair and eyes, many are guessing when it comes to specific height and weight. Those details — along with a current photograph — can be critical when trying to locate a missing child, officials say. In terms of the school district itself, Lauderdale County School Superintendent Randy Hodges said the school district, school administrators and staff have a tremendous responsibility to the parents and children to keep them as safe as possible.

    "This program takes on new meaning in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy," Hodges said. "We are constantly looking for ways to protect the students and I'm open to any suggestions or recommendations as to how best to achieve those goals."

    Ident-A-Kid Services of America, Inc. provides the nation’s largest Child Identification Program with more than 25 years of success stories. The company was founded in 1986 by Robert King after helping a neighbor, whose child had gone missing in a department store.

    The program is offered annually to families at about 10,000 schools and daycares in 35 states.

    For more information on the Ident-A-Kid program, call 1-866-435-6367 or go to the website at ident-a-kid.com.