Zeb Vance Kids Get Printed

By MATTHEW E. MILLIKEN | ST. PETERSBURG, FL | Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Would you know what to do if your child disappeared? Would you know what information to provide to a store security manager or to the police if your child was missing? Would you be able to provide your son or daughter's height, weight, age and other characteristics off the top of your head? In 1986, a Florida woman lost track of her son at a shopping mall. In a panic, she was unable to describe the child to authorities. The boy was found safe at a nearby store, but the experience prompted Robert King of St. Petersburg, Fla., to found Ident-A-Kid Services of America, a firm that provides information cards to parents and caretakers in case a youngster vanishes.

Ident-A-Kid's regional director, Paul Williams, visited Zeb Vance Elementary School Thursday morning to create those cards for more than 200 students. Parents who wanted to participate paid $6 for a single laminated information card or $10 for two cards. It takes about three weeks after an Ident-A-Kid school visit for a card to appear in a parent or guardian's mailbox.

"This is something that parents want," Williams said Thursday. "It's a service that is unfortunately needed in today's society." Williams travels with a large suitcase containing his gear: a collapsible table, a laptop, a digital fingerprinting device, a digital scale, a digital camera on a tripod and a lined backdrop that allows Williams to measure a child's height almost instantly. On Thursday, it took him only a few seconds to type the height into his laptop, snap the picture and obtain the child's weight and right index fingerprint. A student would stand on the scale as Williams pressed his or her finger to a small glass surface to capture the right index print. He would tap a button on his computer, thank the child and call the next one to stand in front of the backdrop.

Williams brings a bicycle to every school and raffles it off to one of the children whose information he obtained. Thursday's winner was fifth grader Latavia Rand.

Ident-A-Kid also makes cash donations to schools that participate in its identification program.

Williams said he enjoys working with children: "You really feel like you're doing something extremely positive for the community." Nearly 1.7 million children had some kind of episode where they were out of their home and without adequate alternative care for at least one night in 1999, according to a U.S. Department of Justice study published three years ago. Two-thirds of the children experiencing what the study called a "runaway/thrownaway" episode were 15, 16 or 17 years old, but 71 percent of children of all ages in the study were considered to be at risk of harm due to one of several factors. Those factors included being age 13 or younger, having an addiction, being abused physically or sexually or being in the presence of criminal activity.

Roughly 4,100 children disappeared and were never found in 1999, the Department of Justice estimated, although study authors cautioned that the number of cases examined was too small for this figure to be reliable.

Ident-A-Kid does not keep copies of the information it collects, according to the company's Web site, www.Ident-A-Kid.com. The firm also claims that the fingerprints on its cards "conform to national standards and can be processed by computer searches." Zeb Vance is the only Vance County school to utilize Ident-A-Kid's services, but on his portion of the company's Web site, Williams lists 10 schools in Granville and four in Warren that have brought him or his predecessors in for visits. Williams also serves schools in a dozen other counties, including Durham and Wake.

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Ident-A-Kid Services of America
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