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 descriptive information. A Child ID kit is a simple yet effective tool to help families maintain current photos of and descriptive information about their children.
To help parents and guardians who are searching for advice about how to keep children safer, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® has compiled key information regarding child identification and safety measures.
For more information about these and other child safety topics, contact NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678).
What should I include in a Child ID kit?
Photo identification (ID)
Families should have current photos of their children. The photo should:
- Show the child's full face in color.
- Be in a digital format and able to be quickly accessed at all times.
- Capture the way the child really looks.
- Be updated at least every six months.
- Be kept in a safe and readily accessible place.
You should include a complete description of your child. The description should include:
- Date of Birth.
- Hair color/style.
- Eye color.
- Glasses and braces.
- Identifying marks such as tattoos or piercings.
Dental X-rays, charting and bite impressions
Dental X-rays, professional dental charting and bite impressions or tooth prints are often useful to law enforcement in resolving missing children cases. You should update dental charts every two years until your child is 18. Check with your child's dentist to determine if this service is offered.
In addition you may choose to have bite impressions made using plastic foam such as StyrofoamTM. Take a two-inch square plastic foam and have your child bite partially through it. The bite should be strong enough to leave an impression of the upper and lower teeth. A new bite sample should be made each time your child loses or grows a tooth. This sample should be stored in a safe and readily accessible place.
Have your child's fingerprints taken by a trained professional. If your child is missing, law enforcement can enter the prints into the FBI's National Crime Information Center database.
As with all of these methods of identification, fingerprints can be recorded and stored at little or no cost. Retailers, supermarkets and other companies often provide opportunities for parents and guardians to have Child ID information taken for their children. It is recommended parents or guardians are the only ones to permanently store their child's identifying information.
DNA samples are useful to law enforcement in the case of identifying a child's remains. In recent years DNA has become the "gold standard" for personal identification.
There are many DNA collection kits available, but it is simple for you to collect a sample on your own. Items rich in DNA include an old toothbrush allowed to air dry, baby teeth, a hairbrush used exclusively by your child for at least one month or dried blood from a bandage. These items should be placed in a brown envelope licked shut by your child. The envelope should be labeled and stored in a cool, dry and readily accessible place.
Parents and guardians should check with their child's doctor to make sure their children's medical records are readily accessible. Medical records, such as X-rays, permanent scars, blemishes, birthmarks and documentation of broken bones, can be helpful in identifying a recovered child.
Frequently asked questions
Does NCMEC host Child ID events?
NCMEC does not host Child ID events but partners with select companies and organizations sponsoring free Child ID events for families.
NCMEC does not partner with or receive donated funds based on the sale of Child ID programs directly marketed to families. All of NCMEC's Child ID partners provide photo identification to families at no cost and are generally underwritten by a third party.
How can I find/host a Child ID event?
If your organization or school is looking to host a Child ID event, NCMEC recommends checking with your local law enforcement agency to see if they offer a program. Keep in mind most Child IDs are computer based. Some service/community groups and retailers also sponsor events. Visit www.take25.org for more information about hosting a Child ID event.
Where can I get an ID for my child?
Many NCMEC partners work with local businesses, law enforcement and community organizations to provide Child IDs. Check your local community calendar for opportunities in your neighborhood to get an ID made for your child.
Should the Child ID information be stored in a public database?
No. Some Child ID systems use online registration features, but only a parent or guardian should store and have access to ID information for your children. NCMEC does not recommend storage of Child ID information by law enforcement, government, schools or any commercial or nonprofit organization or third party.
Can NCMEC give me information about a specific Child ID product?
NCMEC staff members are prohibited from commenting regarding such individual child safety products.
What should I consider when choosing a photo for my child's ID?
One of the most important tools for law enforcement when a child is missing is an up-to-date, good quality photo. Your child's photo should be:
- Recent and an accurate head-and-shoulders color photo in which the child's face is clearly seen, similar to a school portrait. The background should be plain or solid so it does not distract from your child's image. Your child should not be overly posed. Make sure there are no other people, animals or objects in the photo. Also make sure the photo isn't taken outside, out of focus, torn, damaged or very small.
- Available in a digital format, not only as a hard copy. This minimizes the time needed to scan, resize and make color corrections if you need to give the photo to law enforcement.
- Updated at least every six months for children 6 years old or younger and then once a year for older children. The photo should also be updated whenever your child's appearance changes.
- Kept in an easily accessible, secure place.
— Nancy McBride, National Safety Director, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children