It’s 10 p.m., do you know where your children are? For parents of missing children, this question can send chills down their spine.
According to the FBI, in 2018 there were 424,066 National Crime Information Center (NCIC) entries for missing children. In September 2018, the Hudson Valley Post reported that officials from Westchester to Dutchess County were searching for seven missing Hudson Valley children.
But New York Life (NYL) Insurance Company is here to ease parents’ panic and help bring children back home with their Child ID Program.
“NYL’s Child ID Program is designed to help children in our community learn how to stay safe in the home, at play or wherever they happen to be,” according to the program’s summary sheet. “It also provides a comfortable way to develop relationships with young families, business, schools and non-profit organizations in your community by hosting a safety-oriented event where all children receive a NYL-issued Child ID.”
Child ID cards feature a child’s photo, fingerprints, contact information and other pertinent data needed by the police in case of an emergency. These IDs are made possible through utilizing a third-party’s Child ID kit to enter the child’s information and print the card.
The Gardiner Library was scheduled to host a NYL Child ID event on April 13, led by NYL Insurance Agent Kreston Harrison. While unforeseen circumstances caused the library to cancel, the library did host a Child ID event on March 12.
“It wasn’t really something we thought about doing prior to [Harrison] coming to us,” said Gardiner Library Director Nicole Lane. “We have weekly story times and we obviously have a lot of children who use the library, so it seemed like a good fit. We hadn’t seen anything like this offered anywhere locally before…here was an opportunity for [parents] to do it basically right at home.”
One of the most important tools for law enforcement when searching for a missing child is an up-to-date, good quality photo along with accurate, descriptive information. According to the program’s summary sheet, “having a Child ID will give the parent or guardian peace of mind knowing that should anything ever happen to their child, they will have an ID with vital information to distribute to local authorities.”
While these Child IDs are meant to rescue children from danger, some Child ID kits have actually put children at risk for identity theft. Back in 2016, the Identity Theft Resource Center and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) released an alert to warn parents about Child ID kit scams.
A mother from California was concerned when she received a flyer from her child’s preschool regarding a company coming in to fingerprint the children and provide Child ID kits. This company offered to provide a wallet-sized copy of the scanned fingerprints—a service that costs $86—and a digitized set of the child’s fingerprints on a thumb drive that parents can carry on their key chain at all times. Apart from being an alarmist tactic that tricks parents into paying, this company’s offerings clearly pose an identity theft risk for the child if the parent’s wallet or key chain goes missing.
Questions surrounding the security of children’s personal information on the Child ID cards have raised skepticism among parents.
“There has been instances where I’ve called certain towns and they decline to do Child IDs because they’ll tell me ‘the people of our area are not too sure about it because the police used to do it and people are just not sure if the police are keeping the child’s information or not,” Harrison said.
To ensure a child’s protection, NYL’s Child ID Program uses the EZ Child ID System, the nation’s most comprehensive digital fingerprinting child identification system. With this third-party system, a Child ID card is printed free of charge in only three to five minutes, and no child’s information or photos are electronically retained.
“God forbid the software, the machine, or anything is lost it doesn’t matter because there is no information saved,” said NYL Insurance Agent Eman Goul.
“Literally as soon as the information is entered and the ID is printed, the system wipes the information clear,” Harrison added.
Besides giving parents “peace of mind,” it remains unclear how effective and useful these Child ID cards actually are in finding a missing child. Local authorities were not reached in time for comment.
“No program or identification tool will keep children safe or prevent abductions 100-percent of the time,” wrote Child Safety Spokesperson and Executive Director Nancy McBride on the NCMEC’s website.
“Parents, guardians and members of the community must all work together to help ensure children will be protected and have access to help if they need it,” McBride said. “Child safety is all of our responsibilities.”