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Pa. Senate passes bill to have state provide child identification kits free to parents | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

School districts would be required to distribute free identification kits to first-grade students at no cost that could aid law enforcement should the child go missing under legislation that passed the Pennsylvania Senate on Tuesday by a 34-15 vote.

The so-called Child Reunification Act, sponsored by Sens. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington County, and Scott Martin, R-Lancaster County, now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

The kits would include fingerprinting materials, DNA collection swabs and ask other identifiable information about the child that parents would be encouraged to store securely in their homes. It would not be entered into a state or national database.

“Senate Bill 460 is about giving parents another tool to help them hug their children again, to end the torturous nightmare of forever worrying if their children are safe or even alive,” Bartolotta said. “While it is our hope that not a single kit is ever needed, we want parents and law enforcement to have every means at their disposal to help in reconnecting these missing children with their parents.”

The bill was amended on Monday to remove the requirement that the kits contain only inkless fingerprinting material since only one vendor, the National Child Identification Program, sells that product. According to the Senate fiscal note on the bill, the cost of the National Child Identification Program’s kit is $2.95 each, which providing one for every first-grader would cost the state around $350,000.

By removing the requirement for the fingerprinting material to be inkless would opens this up to more vendors and could lead to potential cost savings, according to a Senate staffer.

“The idea of a child going missing is one of the scariest scenarios most families could ever imagine. When that happens, every second counts,” Martin said. “The law enforcement community needs every tool in their arsenal to identify and return a missing child as quickly as possible. That is precisely what this legislation will achieve.”

However, an investigation by ProPubiica challenges the kits’ effectiveness.

It quotes a child safety consultant Stacey Pearson who oversaw the Louisiana Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children during a 20-year stint with the Louisiana State Police, who called it “crime control theater,” a term that used to describe criminal justice laws and policies that make people feel as though they are proactive but actually accomplish little.

She told ProPublica, “The organizations promoting the kits are preying on people’s fears.“

According to the FBI, in 2022 there were 359,094 National Crime Information Center entries for missing children, which is up from the total number of missing child entries from 2021 of 337,195.

The child identification kits are part of a national effort that began in 1997 and was an idea that came to Kenny Hansmire, who leads the National Child Identification Program, in the wake of the abduction of Amber Hagerman, for whom the Amber Alert was named. Hansmire is the focus of the ProPublica investigation.

NFL Hall of Famer Mike Singletary, who is a national spokesman for the National Child Identification Program, came to the Capitol in May to promote this initiative.

Jan Murphy may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @JanMurphy.


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