It’s every parent’s worst nightmare — an AMBER Alert for their own child. Despite every effort to keep kids safe in public, the unimaginable still happens.
A child safety kit, which is an information packet with up-to-date identifying information about individual children, is an important preemptive tool for parents to have on hand in the event of an abduction, kidnapping, or missing child situation.
While no parent wants to anticipate something happening to their kids, child safety kits ensure that both parents and law enforcement are better prepared in a worst case scenario, according to Corporal Kenneth Hibbert Jr. of the Community Policing Unit of Prince George County Police Department in Maryland.
“Safety kits are definitely a great tool for law enforcement and parents, because it cuts down the speed time trying to figure out where a kid may have gone or who they're with,” Hibbert told TODAY Parents, emphasizing the importance of having the kit ready to go. “Nine times out of ten they're probably with a friend or a relative — somebody that they are really close to.”
How to make a child safety kit
Creating a DIY child safety kit at home is as simple as collecting information about your child(ren) on a blank sheet of paper and storing it in a safe place. In the case of an emergency, the kit can be handed directly to police or law enforcement officials, so make sure each child has their own information sheet.
“When your child goes missing you’re going to be frantic,” Hibbert said. “Put it in a safe spot that's accessible, maybe in the kitchen on top of the refrigerator.”
When creating your child’s safety kit, be sure to include:
- First, Middle, Last Name (as well as any nicknames)
- Date of birth
- Height and weight
- Eye and hair color
- Unique features or physical characteristics (birthmarks, glasses, tattoos, scars, piercings, etc.)
- Current address
- Any medical needs or medications
- Emergency contact
- A recent, color photo
Hibbert encourages parents to also include fingerprints, which can be recorded at home using a black inkpad, as well as a DNA sample, which can be taken from hair, in their child’s kit.
“A washable ink inkpad is easy to print on paper and easy to get off their fingers,” Hibbert said. “For hair, it doesn’t have to be a lot, just a little bit, maybe an inch worth of hair, or shavings and just put it in a bag.”
Parenting blogger Tabitha Philen from Meet Penny provides parents with additional ways to record reliable DNA samples, including a cheek swab and nail clippings, as well as a free printable to guide recorded information.
As a 14-year veteran police officer, Hibbert shared that in the case of a missing child without a supplied kit, officers rely on parents for the most up-to-date information.
“With technology, who has a recent photo of their child printed?” Hibbert said. “I’ll ask the parents, 'Do you mind sending me that photo?'... [Anything to be able to] share information as quickly as possible.”
Officials warn that in some cases, ordering child safety kits online, where personal information is entered digitally, can be a scam, so parents should take caution and only give out the informational kit to police or trusted law enforcement in person.
To date, 985 child abduction cases have had successful recoveries thanks to the AMBER Alert system, which is utilized by law enforcement in all 50 states.