Fact Sheet: Choosing an Identity Kit for Your Child
Keeping children away from harm is probably among the top of your list of worries as a parent or guardian. Along with keeping them safe, you also want to think about how to quickly find your child if the worst were to happen and your child was lost or abducted. Child identity kits can help assist law enforcement in the recovery of your missing child, but there are some important things you need to know about them.
What is a Child ID Kit?
A Child Identification (ID) Kit will generally contain a physical description of your child, such as height, weight, hair and eye color, and any distinguishing marks, scars or characteristics. Sometimes, they will contain biometric information (for example, fingerprints or palm prints), medical and dental records or even a DNA sample.
Where do I get a Child ID Kit?
Child ID Kits can be obtained for free or put together yourself at a minimal cost. Some organizations that can help include:
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a kit you can put together yourself.
- The FBI has a free app that allows parents to enter physical characteristics and a current photograph.
- The Poly Klaas Foundation also offers free kits.
What information should be included in a Child ID Kit?
Information that can physically identify a child is the most crucial thing you would need should a child become lost or abducted and every minute matters. A current photograph of the child and information such as height, weight, hair color and what items of clothing a child was wearing, when they went missing, all contribute to helping law enforcement work quickly to find them.
Law Enforcement will often leverage the public in a search for a missing child by putting out alerts, posting bulletins, etc. that will include a picture and description of the child. This way, the public can help spot a missing child and inform the authorities. Biometric information and DNA information is not a part of this process.
What about biometric information?
Biometrics are unique forms of physical identification and include such things as fingerprints, palm prints, and footprints. It can be important to maintain this information for your child, but that decision and the responsibility to safeguard this information should be left up to the parent or guardian.
If you choose to have biometric information obtained for a Child ID Kit, do not digitize this information. Keep a hard copy in a secure place such as a lock box or safe. Do not share this information with anyone other than the parents or legal guardians of the child, or law enforcement when necessary. It is not necessary to carry your child’s biometric information with you at all times.
Biometrics are used to locate children who were abducted, lost or have run away, but they are not necessary to have when you are making the initial report to law enforcement. Feeding the biometric information into a national database can help law enforcement identify a child after an abduction if the child’s fingerprints are taken and run against the database.
How do biometrics locate missing children?
Fingerprints of a missing child can be fed into a national database that could help to locate a missing child should their fingerprints be entered into the database at a later date/event. For example, if a runaway teen is stopped by law enforcement for a criminal act and has their fingerprints taken at that event, they would be fed into that database and there would be a match; if the original fingerprints were provided fed into the database previously.
What about companies that work with my child’s daycare center, school, or afterschool program?
For-profit companies that work with your daycare center, child’s school, PTA, or even an afterschool program may provide convenience or expertise when taking fingerprints or compiling information for a Child ID Kit. Keep in mind, that just like any other fee-for-service company (like a car wash), you can choose to do it yourself or you can pay a fee for someone else to do it. It is important to realize that you are generally paying for convenience (which is a personal choice) as most of the items you compile in a kit an easily be done by parents.
What should I watch out for when paying for a Child ID Kit?
When dealing with a for-profit company, there are some red flags you should watch out for.
Red flags to watch out for include:
- Companies that offer to collect and retain your child’s biometric information. Biometric information is very sensitive and should be in the custody of parents. If you are having your child’s fingerprints, palm prints, etc. taken, ensure that you are given the cards, and then secure them in a safe location in your home. Do not allow the company to retain a copy of this information.
- Companies that recommend you carry biometric information on your person at all times. Some companies will offer to digitize the information and include it on a thumb drive for you to carry on your key chain. Carrying a copy of your child’s fingerprints on you at all times is not a best practice and is not endorsed by child safety professionals. Wallets, purses, and keychains are lost or stolen on a regular basis. The only exception is carrying this information with you when you are traveling.
- Companies that request or want to obtain other sensitive personal information. Information such as a Social Security number, a passport number or a copy of a birth certificate will not assist in the search for missing child. There is no need for this information to be included in a Child ID Kit.
- For-profit companies that state they are endorsed by law enforcement. While some practices may be endorsed by the law enforcement community, a particular for-profit company will not be. Sometimes for-profit companies will establish a partnership with law enforcement, but don’t take their word for it. Check with law enforcement yourself.
- For-profit companies that state all proceeds go to charity. If the company does not list the charity, consider this a big red flag. If they do list the charity, check that it’s a legitimate organization (you can check Guidestar.org, and charitynavigator.org) and ask them directly if this Child ID Kit provider is a fundraiser they endorse.
- Companies that use scare tactics, or peer-pressure tactics to entice you to use their program, as opposed to the free programs/resources available. You are paying for convenience. Be aware of high pressure sales tactics that allude to the fact that you are a bad parent if you don’t participate, that your child will feel left out, or that other parents will judge you. You as a parent can decide how best to capture and secure this important information.
Why is the ITRC concerned about the use of biometric information?
If you take a historical look at another identifier used for one purpose, then adopted for another purpose – social security numbers – you will see that once this identifier was adopted for multi-purpose use, such as credit history, identity theft became a real problem.
Biometric information is no different – it is personally identifying information that is starting to be used for many different purposes. You can use your fingerprint to unlock your phone, your house, to log into your bank or credit card apps on your phone, and more. Biometrics have already become a part of the identity authentication process just like passwords, Social Security numbers or account numbers. The ITRC believes this is a trend that will continue to grow and if not now, then soon, there will be an incentive for thieves to obtain this information in order to steal your child’s identity. Therefore you should keep your child’s biometric information safe, just as you would their Social Security card or birth certificate.
The bottom line is that having a properly made Child ID Kit can help law enforcement find your child should they go missing. However, a kit with too much personally identifying information in the wrong hands can also lead to problems for you child. We urge you to do some research and consulate the sources mentioned. Of course, if you have any questions, you can receive free assistance by calling the ITRC’s toll-free number at 888.400.5530 and speaking with an Identity Theft Information Specialist.