CHIP program deserves our financial help

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Whenever it happens ... and wherever it happens ... the disappearance of a child is one of the most dreaded experiences of human life. It's absolutely devastating, sending shock waves through families, communities and -- in some instances -- entire nations. And, the sad thing is, the problem is not getting better, it's getting worse.

According to the National Crime Information Center and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, "on average in the United States, a child is reported missing every 41 seconds."

There is no way to lessen the terror of a lost child, but there is a way to help in the search for the young people who turn up missing.

It's called CHIP, which stands for Child Identification Program. The program began in New York in 1994, and has since been taken to 19 other states by the Freemasons.

The secretary of the McCook Masonic Bodies, Marshall Grant, first saw the Child Identification Program in use in Lincoln, where he was a host for band members at the Nebraska Shrine Game. In the demonstration Grant witnessed, children were fingerprinted, tooth-printed, swabbed for DNA and videotaped from the front and left and right sides.

With the help of law enforcement officers, dentists and dental hygeinists, the Masonic volunteers were able to ID a child in four minutes' time. Because of privacy laws, all the information was given to the child's parent or guardian. All that was kept on record was the child's name and address, Grant said.

However, parents and guardians were given advice on how to keep records. "DNA and tooth-prints should be placed in the freezer for preservation," he said. Videotapes and fingerprints should be filed in a place where they are readily available.

Because of the CHIP program's value when a child turns up missing, Grant and the McCook Masonic Bodies would like to bring the program to McCook. "ID programs have already been conducted in South Sioux City, Norfolk, Columbus, Plattsmouth and Imperial," Grant said, "and we are now lining up support for an identification program in McCook."

Those willing to help are asked to call the Masonic Lodge office at (308) 345-4014. "It's going to take a fund drive, since it costs approximately $4 to ID each child. But we believe the CHIP program will be worth it to help find children who disappear."

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