Tagging Our Children
It happens fast. Terror freezes the perfect summer vacation and the race is on – a child is missing and their quick recovery is a matter of life and death. National Missing Child Awareness Day, the Laura Recovery Center and Who's Shoes ID are asking parents to head feet first into the busiest travel season of the year by fastening a simple identification tag to their children's shoes. Together, the two organizations are launching the "Child ID Challenge," a nationwide campaign to provide 500,000 children this year with this discreet and effective form of personal ID.
"We identify our luggage and our pets, but 98 percent of the time we don't bother to identify our children," says Mary Lynn Fernau, director of the national "Child ID Challenge" and president of Who's Shoes ID, a Velcro® identification tag that attaches to a child's shoes. "The number of missing children reported each day and lost every year is staggering, and providing personal identification for our children is one of the simplest ways we can protect them from unnecessary harm and danger."
Consider these statistics:
- The F.B.I. receives over 2000 missing child reports every day.
- Each year, some 600,000 children are lost from their parents, the majority of which are 7 years old and younger, with age 2 being most at risk.
- Children who can be identified immediately spend an average of 10 minutes away from their parents in "lost or missing" types of situations, compared to one to six hours for children who can't be identified.
As Americans embark on some 275 million trips this summer alone, Fernau believes there is no better time to talk about child safety. "When you mix increased travel and crowds with unfamiliar surroundings and already alarming statistics, the need for a safety campaign to protect our kids with identification becomes pretty obvious," says the Laura Recovery Center's Suzanne Boase. "Simple measures save lives."
A Mom's Story
"Everyday – that is when your child needs to wear their ID," says Krista Fabragas, founder of KidSmartLiving.com. "My 5-year-old daughter was at a spring break daycare program. Though we used Who's Shoes ID, I reserved it for 'special occasions' not everyday, so she didn't have on her ID that day. The program was in a new building and my daughter got confused going from room to room and ended up outside. A neighbor found her and took her to the local police department. Even though we practiced and practiced our emergency information, the only thing she could remember that day was the name of our subdivision. Luckily, a police officer who was a friend of the family recognized my daughter. Two and one half hours had passed from the time she left the room to the time he returned our frightened daughter to the daycare. Neither the school nor we knew she was gone! I am terrified to think of what could have happened to her in that time or longer if not for the neighbor and the police officer. If I would have put the ID on her shoe she would have only been gone a few minutes! Everyday, every situation – that is when your child needs ID."
Getting Medical Attention
Medically speaking, personal identification can be critical. Law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians overwhelmingly recommend that children wear a discreet form of emergency identification. "A personal ID worn by the child, coupled with an up-to-date photo ID for the parents to carry greatly improves your odds for finding your child quickly," says EMT Daniel Risch. "An ID worn on the child allows EMTs to contact parents while en route to the hospital. This could mean the difference between an injured child laying in the hospital alone and hurting for hours awaiting identification or immediate parental notification and prompt medical treatment."
In the course of a year, one-third of 100,000 emergency room patients are unable to give fast, accurate medical or emergency contact information. It was this exact situation that caused Fernau to vow to give parents and their children a way to stay connected in any situation.
"My own son was hurt in an accident and waited in the emergency room for two hours before I was contacted," says Fernau. "If he would have had personal identification, we could have been called immediately. I felt sick knowing I could have spared him the trauma of waiting for what must have seemed like an eternity. That's why I started Who's Shoes ID."
In 2001, six months after this incident, Fernau quit her job, mortgaged her home and started making Who's Shoes ID tags. The "Child ID Challenge" grew out of the need to educate parents about the importance of personal identification for their children. It is the essential partner piece to child ID cards that parents should carry with them at all times.
"The testimonials we receive are emotional and amazing," says Fernau. "One mother who lost her 3-year-old daughter at the zoo was terrified that she'd never see her again. Her 6-year-old son thought the bears had eaten her. Relief was quick when a woman called the mother on her cell phone to ask if she was missing a child. The mother was relieved that the Who's Shoes ID band worked, and the daughter was proud that she remembered her ID like she had practiced with her mother."
The Who's Shoes ID tag is a simple yet bright Velcro strip that slips through a shoe's laces, around a strap or even on a bathing suit. Using permanent ink, parents can write their child's name, phone number, physician information and medical conditions on the inside of the strap, which is hidden when the tag is attached to the shoe. On the outside, it says "Who's Shoes ID" so a person who finds a lost or missing child knows to look inside for emergency information.
Personal ID is an everyday essential. There are several options available. An ID that is simple to use like Who's Shoes ID that attaches to something that is attached to a child is best, as it goes everywhere the kids go.
For more information on Who's Shoe ID Tags, visit www.whosshoesid.com. A portion of all sales are donated to the Laura Recovery Center.
Top 10 Safe Summer Travel Tips
As with any safety measure, parents should coach their children on what to do in an emergency situation.
- Instruct children to never go anywhere without first getting permission.
- Have children wear up-to-date, discreet personal ID at all times.
- Parents should always carry a current photo ID of their child.
- Before going on an outing, play a game of "what do I look like?". Have your children recite what you look like and what you are wearing that day.
- If lost, tell children to stay where they are. Don't go running around looking for Mommy and Daddy. Assure them you will return to where you last saw them.
- Everywhere you go, point out a uniformed employee so children know whom to look for in an emergency.
- Tell children to also look for another mother with young children and go to her. Mothers are most likely to help other young children.
- Teach children to show their ID to another mother or uniformed employee in an emergency situation.
- Go over "stranger danger" rules: Never talk to strangers unless you need help in an emergency, stay a safe distance from people you don't know, and scream "Help! You're not my Mommy or Daddy," if someone tries to grab them.
- Teach children to rip off their Who's Shoes ID and leave it as a clue for law enforcement if a stranger takes them.