No parents would ever fall asleep at night if they allowed themselves to dwell on all the bad things that could happen to their children. Still, they take the basic precautionary measures: car seats, bicycle helmets, and life jackets could all protect a child in an unthinkable accident. Often overlooked, however, is another unthinkable possibility.
This year, police will receive reports of more than three-quarters of a million missing children. Just as you put a bicycle helmet on your child even though you pray- and expect- that she will be never be hit by a car, so you should consider taking steps to aid law enforcement in the unimaginable possibility of a kidnapping. The most important step you can take, one you might not have thought of, is to have your child fingerprinted.
Police use fingerprints to identify criminals; they can also use fingerprints to help bring missing children home, and police departments across the country recommend that parents keep records of their children’s fingerprints along with certain other information. Obtaining a kit is easy. The Internet abounds in web sites offering these kits for sale, but there’s probably no need to purchase a commercial kit.
First, contact your local police department; many local and state departments participate in a national program that makes the kits available to parents. In some localities, police ask that you bring in your child so that they can make the fingerprints professionally; in others, police distribute kits so that parents can take the prints themselves.
Commercial kits usually include nontoxic ink; some of these kits, and most of the kits distributed by police departments for use by parents, use an inkless system. If you will be taking the fingerprints yourself, there should be detailed instructions, as well as space where you can practice before taking the official prints of each finger and thumb.
If your child is younger than two, consult your local police department; they may recommend taking a palm print or footprint, as fingerprints are not fully developed. If your child is younger than seven, you should plan on repeating the fingerprinting when the child is older. While fingerprints remain constant throughout life, they become more fully developed as the child ages. Fingerprints taken after the age of ten will not need to be repeated.
Any fingerprint kit should include more than just a fingerprint record. Most importantly, it should have space where you can keep a recent photo of your child; this photo should clearly show your child’s facial features. There should also be space to record identifying information about your children, such as distinguishing marks, medical history, and your child’s description.
In addition to recording fingerprints, the kit should offer a way to keep a sample of your child’s DNA. Many commercial kits include a cheek swab with a container to store it, but this kind of DNA sample is not necessary. Instead, the kits distributed by police departments usually direct parents to save a sample of their child’s hair.
The hair strands saved must include the follicle, or root (this will appear as a small lump at the end of the hair), and can be pulled from your child’s hairbrush. Enclose the hair in a clean white piece of paper, then place the folded paper in a plastic bag and keep it with the kit. Finally, there should be space where you can note down the medical offices which have your child’s full medical and dental records, should these be needed by police.
Once you have assembled the kit, maintaining it is important. As mentioned above, fingerprints of young children will need to be repeated when they are older. The photograph kept with the records should also be updated quite frequently, two or three times a year.
Each new photo should be of good quality, not distorted or fuzzy. Every time you update the photo, check over the information recorded in the kit and update it if anything has changed. Keep the kit in a safe place, but make sure it will be accessible in the event of an emergency.Each new photo