CHIP program helps keep kids safe

Published 8:24 pm Monday, February 6, 2012

Hundreds of seventh graders filled the Decatur County Memorial Coliseum’s lobby Tuesday morning, taking advantage of a free program that helps keep Georgia’s children safer.

The program is the Georgia Child Identification Program (CHIP), which is funded by the Georgia Masonic Charities Foundation Inc. The local Masonic lodge, Orion Lodge No. 8 in Bainbridge, provided the volunteers and staffing to offer the program to the seventh graders.

The program is a comprehensive child ID service, where a student’s important information is documented. That information includes photographs, a video interview, fingerprints and even the taking of a DNA sample, with a cotton swab. This information is then placed onto a compact disc and given to the student to give to his or her parents.

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In the case of a horrible emergency, such as a child going missing or getting abducted, a parent can then give that data CD to a law enforcement officer. The officer will be able to quickly call up the data, which can be extremely useful in locating a missing child. The information also instantly interfaces with the national “Amber Alert” system, allowing law enforcement officials nationwide to become part of the search.

Bennie Brookins, the secretary of the local Masonic lodge, said the program is Georgia’s Masonic lodges’ gift to parents.

“Our goal is to eventually get every child in the state in this program,” he said. “It’s important to us that if one gets lost, they can be found very quickly. We want to keep every child in this state safe.”

Local Masons, volunteers and staff members of the Decatur County Fire Rescue Service and Decatur County Sheriff’s Office compiled the data Tuesday. Previously, the CHIP program was offered to the county’s second graders. On March 15, it will be offered to high school seniors.

Joe Frank Battles, the local lodge’s CHIP project chairman, said the program is very safe and added the data is destroyed as soon as the data CDs are completed. Parents were notified ahead of time and asked to sign permission slips to allow their children to participate in the program.

“The only people who will have access to this information are the parents, and any law enforcement officers who need to use it,” he said.

Battles explained that the program is offered at various age levels, because children change so much, both physically and mentally. He noted that other organizations offer similar programs, to both the children and the elderly, but the Masonic lodge has made it an especially key part of its service to the community.

“We also offer this program at the fair every year,” he said. “It’s not just for kids, but also for senior citizens and anyone else who might want it.

“Obviously, you hope that nobody ever has to use this information, but it’s important for it to be available if the worst ever happens.”

Georgia CHIP is part of MASONICHIP, which is recognized by the National Centers for Mission and Exploited Children as one of the most comprehensive child ID services available, and all the identifying items in the pack are provided at no cost. Georgia CHIP is recognized by the Office of the Governor, Secretary of State, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and many other organizations that support its purpose.

For more information on the program, visit online at