Protecting children, one video at a time

Published 4:57 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

With 2,000 children going missing in the United States every day, it can be a scary thought for parents to even consider allowing their children outdoors.

However, several programs in the country help prevent children from becoming missing or abducted. One of those programs, Child Shield USA, has a new representative in the area who is willing to give talks on child safety and the Child Shield program.

“We’ll give a safety lecture to any group,” said Jack Smith, an executive affiliate with Child Shield. “School, camps, PTAs, just about anywhere that there are kids and parents.”

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Child Shield USA is a program that is part educational and part recovery. The core of the program consists of teaching parents how to talk to their children about safety from abduction in a way that is not overwhelming or scary. The rest of the program centers on effective methods of rescuing missing or abducted children.

“Our program helps prevent children from being abducted in the first place,” Smith said. “We reduce lost, missing, abducted children. Prevention is first, recovery is second.”

When parents sign up for the Child Shield program, they receive plenty of educational materials to help their children learn about safety. Children get a poster, coloring book, and other activities designed to help keep them safe. Parents get tips on talking to their children about people who might hurt them, along with a newsletter, e-mail notices on new tactics criminals are using to gain children’s trust and more.

In addition to the educational features of the program, parents also get a videotape to record images of each of their children. A moving image often is more effective than a photograph when it comes to recovering children, Smith said.

Once the videotape is recorded, parents attach an ID code sticker to the tape and send it in, keeping a record of the ID code. That way, even Child Shield does not know the identity of the child on the tape – until the child goes missing.

When a child goes missing, a parent activates the Child Shield system by calling in with the child’s ID code. At that point, the video and photos of the child are distributed to news media, a $50,000 reward is offered, a private detective is dispatched and “Missing” posters are printed and sent to parents.

The whole objective is to recover living children, Smith said, which sets the Child Shield program apart from other programs. Some other programs record children’s fingerprints and DNA – items used to identify a dead body, but useless when looking for a living child.

The Child Shield program claims that out of 1.5 million children registered with the program, only three children have gone missing – and all three were recovered safely, Smith said.

“That’s unheard of, practically,” he said.

For more information on the Child Shield program, visit