by Marley Parish, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 2, 2023
Though they hope families are never in a situation where they have to use them, two Pennsylvania Republicans have proposed giving parents kits to help identify missing children.
Building on national efforts to enhance child identification programs, Sens. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, and Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, announced plans last week to reintroduce the Child Reunification Act, legislation that would give parents of kindergarteners kits equipped with fingerprinting materials, DNA collection swabs, and other resources to help parents easily record information to help identify their kids.
“A child going missing is a nightmare scenario for parents, and families in this terrible situation need to provide personal identifying information about their child to law enforcement as quickly as possible,” Bartolotta said in a statement. “It is crucial for families to have this tool available, even if we hope they never need to use it.”
Parents and guardians would be responsible for storing the collected information, which does not enter a national or state database.
The American Football Coaches Association founded the National Child Identification Program in 1997, one year after the abduction of Amber Hagerman, the namesake for the Amber Alert, hoping to fingerprint 20 million children. More than two decades later, the program, which also partners with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has distributed more than 54 million kits.
Martin and Bartolotta’s proposal would distribute kits directly to parents, but parents can purchase them on their own online through the identification program. They range in price — from $4 to $10 — depending on the quantity ordered.
The FBI also offers a mobile app for parents to store photos and information about their child in case of an emergency. The FBI said it is not collecting or storing information entered into the app, noting that data remains on a user’s phone unless they need to send it to law enforcement.
“When a child goes missing, every second and every detail counts,” Martin said. “Providing this resource to parents will give law enforcement every opportunity to locate a missing child and return them to their family to prevent future tragedies.”
Data for 2021 from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center show that people under 18 accounted for 30,400 — or 32% — of the total 93,718 active missing person records.
“Our proposal offers a simple tool to families that allows them to keep crucial information about their child secure at home, which can have a real impact on law enforcement’s ability to expediently locate a missing child,” Bartolotta and Martin wrote in a memo seeking legislative support.
U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, and Donald Norcross, D-N.J., previously introduced a similar proposal, urging parents and guardians to store information about their children so that in case of an emergency, law enforcement can “spend their invaluable time tracking down a child’s location, not their fingerprints.”
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