Free child identification to take place April 21 during Healthy Kids Day
NILES — When a child goes missing, every second spent looking for them is critical to their recovery. Providing police with the right information has the potential to assist them in finding and returning the child sooner.
To help parents be prepared for this unpredictable circumstance, the St. Joseph Valley Masonic Lodge #4 will be conducting a free child identification program to help parents obtain crucial information to provide to authorities, should they go missing.
The free identification program is part of Healthy Kids Day which will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, 905 Front St.
In addition to getting free identification, those who attend the event can participate in a number of family-friendly events, including games, a bounce house and variety of healthy snacks.
Chris Takacs, the community outreach and state director for the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation, said the identification process takes about 10 minutes per child. According to Takacs, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children considers the Michigan Child Identification Program to be one of the most comprehensive of its kind.
“The identification packet is really meant to provide a few benefits,” Takacs said. “It is an efficient way to collect necessary and important information when time really matters.”
Children who are identified through the program have a dental impression taken, the Masonic Lodge also provides a flash drive containing a photo of the child, video, digital fingerprints and their vital information. The child will also be interviewed on camera during a short question and answer to help record their mannerisms and voice. The program provides everything needed for the Amber Alert System and has been provided to more than 90,000 Michigan children and their families.
A parent or guardian must be present and fill out a permission slip to have their child identified. When the process is through, parents receive all the recorded information to keep safe in the event of an emergency. An identification packet can also be created for seniors if needed.
Takacs said the information is not retained by the Masons to protect the person’s identity.
In the event that a child is missing, Takacs said police will likely want this identification information and instead of having to go through the house and collect it, parents have the pertinent information ready to use.
Takacs suggested having the identification information for their child updated every two years.
The event has taken place at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA for the past five to six years. The St. Valley Masonic Lodge #4 hosts several of the free identification events throughout the year. Takacs said if parents cannot attend the event on April 21, they can check the Masonic Lodge’s calendar for the next identification program at stjoevalley4.com/31097.
Takacs encouraged parents to take advantage of the program.
“Certainly, [it provides] just peace of mind,” Takacs said. “We always hope and pray that no one has to use it. But knowing that you have collected this information is really an outstanding way to help [authorities find] the child sooner.”