The movement toward supplying every U.S. child with an ID kit has been on for several years now, and the sources for the kits are pretty numerous. Some police departments provide them. So do local and state governments and schools. Businesses and sports teams sponsor public events you can find out about through your local community calendar. In all of these cases, child ID kits are provided for free.
In the event that you don't have access to one of these free distribution occasions, you can pick up a kit online. There are lots of providers (just do a search for "child ID" to check out some of the sites), but they're not all the same. Some charge for the kits, and others provide them for free through commercial sponsors. Even one you have to buy should be very inexpensive; beware of an organization trying to charge you $100. You shouldn't have to pay more than $20 or $40, total -- and that's only if the provider offers secure online storage (read on).
In deciding where to get a kit, you'll probably have to choose which type of access you're comfortable with. Some providers offer online database storage for your child's information; with most of these services, you set a password that grants access to the ID, and you decide who gets to know the password. In some cases, though, providers offer storage in a central database that's openly available to agencies like law enforcement.
There's no absolute right and wrong when it comes to child IDs, although it's worth noting that the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children doesn't support the use of central databases, mostly because it's harder to control access to your child's data.
The other primary difference among providers is the information their kits support. Some include swabs for DNA, equipment to get dental impressions, and fingerprint kits. Others leave out these forensic details and stick to guiding you in what you'll need to initiate a search: information on appearance, identifying characteristics, personal habits and mannerisms, and a good photo that can be passed out to law enforcement to help them locate your child.
In the United States, 800,000 children are reported missing each year, so whether you opt for the full forensic-data collection or the height-and-weight approach, it's probably worth the effort to set up some sort of child ID kit [source: IDSNews]. Hopefully, you'll never have to pull it out.
For more information on child IDs, missing children and related topics, look over the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Best Practices Guide for Child ID Kits. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/documents/BestPracticeChildIDKit.pdf
- Cooper, Allie. "Ind. children to receive ID kits." Indiana Daily Student. Oct. 12, 2009.http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=70899
- Family Trusted Child IDhttp://www.childid.com/
- FAQ: Child ID. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=3440
- Harris, McKinsey. "Page County Sheriff's Office Makes Child IDs." WHSV. Aug. 31, 2009.http://www.whsv.com/childrenfirst/headlines/56247357.html
- Smith, Mike. "ID kits being sent to 162,000 Indiana children." Chicago Tribune. Oct. 6, 2009.http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/oct/06/sports/chi-ap-in-childid
- Why a Child ID? KIDSAFE ID.http://www.kidsafeid.com/whychildid.html