Parents can make ID kits for children

Published 4:43 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A new, free program aims to act as a safeguard in the event a child goes missing.

It’s called the Georgia Child Identification Program (or GA CHIP) and has been developed by the Freemasons of Georgia, a fraternal organization. The program’s main aim is to gather the information a child’s parents or guardians would need if the child were to go missing and store that information for safekeeping.

Program organizers hope the information would help police to conduct a faster, more precise search for the missing child, said Jason Newton, who coordinates the GA CHIP program in Southwest Georgia.

A GA CHIP event will be held in Bainbridge on Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Shrine Club on U.S. 84 East (2722 Thomasville Road), between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Gathering the children’s information is free of charge to the parents. The event is a project of the Freemasons of Georgia, Orion Lodge No. 8 in Bainbridge. It will be sponsored by The Money Tree and the City of Bainbridge.

While the event’s main focus is young children, the free program accepts a person of any age, Newton said. Other persons for whom an ID package might be appropriate include mentally disabled persons, elderly persons with Alzheimer’s disease, college students or anyone who might be considered at risk of going missing, he said.

GA CHIP gathers information using special computers that produce an information package about a child. The computer does not keep the information after the process is complete. In a short period of time, parents receive a a CD-ROM that includes full-color digital photographs of the child, a complete set of digital fingerprints, information such as distinguishing features, hair and eye color.

The information package also includes a laminated ID card and a tooth-print dental impression wafer. The dental impression also serves as both a DNA sample and a scent marker that could be used by police search dogs. DNA can also be gathered from small children using a cheek swab, Newton said.

Once the information is gathered on a CD-ROM, the disc is given to parents or guardians, who are asked to keep it in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box at a bank. Multiple copies of the CD-ROM can be made using a computer with a CD-writing drive and the information can also be printed out so that other family members can keep copies on file.

Entertainment and refreshments will also be provided for families. Anyone with questions can contact a local Freemason or call Benny Brookins at (229) 246-1270 or Roger Holleger at (229) 522-0535. The GA CHIP Web site is www.gachip.org

A GA CHIP event will be held on Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Shrine Club on U.S. 84 East between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.