AG Wilson, football greats launch SC’s Child ID program as a resource for parents

Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 10:16 PM EDT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Parents in the Palmetto State will soon have another tool in their toolbox to protect their children.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, along with state senators, University of South Carolina football head coach Shane Beamer and NFL Hall of Famers, kicked off the state’s Child ID program on Friday.

Through the program, all K-12 students throughout the state will be given kits to help law enforcement in tracking them down should they ever go missing.

“We want to aid law enforcement and we want to empower parents,” Wilson told WIS in an exclusive interview Friday ahead of the announcement.

The more than 845,000 kits are expected to be given out by school districts this spring, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

This is made possible through a public-private partnership with the National Child Identification Program.

The kits include an inkless fingerprint card, DNA sample, and space for parents to write down all of their children’s vital information. This includes their height, weight, hair and eye color and an emergency contact.

Completing these steps only take a few minutes. Beamer’s son and Wilson’s children demonstrated how to use the kits at a press conference Friday at USC’s Football Operations Center.

Wilson said keeping children safe has been a priority of his as Attorney General through the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Human Trafficking Task Force.

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“Obviously treating the cause of a problem, the prevention aspect is the most important thing you do,” he said. “But what happens when the unthinkable happens? Every second matters. So giving parents an additional resource that might help them shave minutes or hours off of an investigation to help recover their child is something that we can do.”

All of the information contained in the kits is kept private and only passed along to law enforcement in the case of an emergency.

At that point, the information is placed into a national database to help locate the child.

“A lot of times people are leery to fill that out,” Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, who led a bipartisan legislative effort to get the program passed into law, said. “‘We don’t want people capturing our kids’ DNA, we don’t want all those things happening,’ but you keep it at home.”

The General Assembly unanimously passed a bill last year, which funded most of the cost of the kits.

The state has also partnered with utility companies Dominion Energy and Duke Energy to help get the program off the ground.

The Child ID program is backed by some pretty prominent figures, both in the state of South Carolina and nationally.

NFL Hall of Famers Mike Singletary and Randy White, along with NFL Alumni Association CEO Brad Edwards, spoke in support of the effort at Friday’s press conference.

“Child ID inkless program is a game-changer,” Singletary said.

Beamer also said he feels it is important for him to be an ambassador for the program.

“I realize the role that I’m in this community and in this state, that it carries a lot of weight, and that I am a public figure,” he said. “To be able to, as a public figure, as a football coach, show how supportive I am of this process and program I think is something that I have a responsibility to do.”

Wilson said the effort is about more than the kit itself, though.

“By giving these kits to parents, and asking these parents to go get all your child’s critical information, have them do the fingerprint, the child is going to say, ‘Well, mom, dad, why am I doing this?’” he said. “Then parents are going to have that conversation with them about the need for these kits.”

These kits force an important conversation, Wilson said.

“That’s why we are putting these kits out there,” he said. “It’s creating a vehicle for parents to have a real, serious conversation with their kids how they can best protect themselves.”

2019 data from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division shows that there were 4,378 missing children in the state, which is about 11 per day. While many of those children return home in a matter of hours, some are missing for days, weeks, or longer.

Since its inception in 1997, the National Child ID program has provided more than 75 million kits to children.

Football coaches launched the program in response to the abduction and death of Amber Hagerman, the namesake for the Amber Alert.

22 other states currently have their own version of the program, with 10 additional states planning to roll out the program by the end of this fall.

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