State Police encourages guardians to equip children with back-to-school safety tools

As children return to the classroom, it is essential that their guardians equip them with safety tools, according to state police.

“Both parents and children need tools to keep kids from going missing and to know what to do if it does happen,” said First Sgt. K. Scott Downs, Amber Alert Coordinator for the Virginia State Police.

As of June, there were 373 people ages 21 and under reported missing in Virginia and 43,405 children missing in the U.S., Downs said.

State Police is encouraging parents to participate in the national “Take 25” program and create a child ID through The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Take 25 challenges parents and guardians to talk with their children about stranger/cyber safety for 25 minutes on the 25th of every month.

“Our brains are like a library and we reference things we have learned,” said Downs. “We must talk to kids about safety so they have it in their references.”

The Take 25 website has age-specific resources for the safety conversations, including Power Point presentations and activity sheets.

DMV also offers ID cards for children 15 and under at its Customer Service and Full Service centers. The DMVs in West Point and New Kent are DMV Select and do not offer child ID cards.

After the guardian applies for the ID, the child's information goes into a database accessible by law enforcement anywhere in the U.S.

The child ID card, which looks similar to a Virginia driver's license, contains the following: Customer number; date of birth; height; gender; expiration date; issue date; full legal name; full legal address; full-face photograph; and organ donor status.

In order to apply for a child ID card, guardians must pay $10, show one identity document, such as a birth certificate or passport, and fill out an application.

The card expires at the end of the month in which the child was born in - when the child reaches an age divisible by five, such as five, 10, or 15.

Although the child ID cards are only for children 14 and younger, people of every age that do not have a learner's permit or driver's license can get an ID card from DMV.

Downs also encourages parents to update their cellphones and media devices with a recent picture of their child and set rules that their child can understand.

“You don't want to make the rules too complicated for a younger child because if they don't fully understand the rules, they might be in danger,” Downs said.

According to Downs, parents can cut down the chance of danger if their children are taught their name, date of birth, and address; a few important telephone numbers, including their home number and their parents' cell phones or work numbers; and their parents' names and dates of birth.

“If we get the parents' and child's information, we can look up the parents in the police database and have a better chance of getting them home safely,” he said.

For more information on Take 25, visit: www.take25.org.

For more information on DMV child ID cards, visit: www.dmv.virginia.gov. 

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.