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Masons hold child ID program

May 16, 2004|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

WAYNESBORO, PA.

A new Child Identification Program came to Waynesboro's Hooverville Elementary School Saturday, thanks to the efforts of members of Acacia Lodge 586 of Free and Accepted Masons of Waynesboro.

Lamar Sease of Waynesboro, Worshipful Master of the lodge, said that the pilot program already has received interest from other local school districts.

"This is the first time we've done it," Sease said. "We're trying it out today."

Tom Miller, from the Elkins Masonic Lodge in Philadelphia, has been with the program since its inception 16 weeks ago. He said that statewide, about 25,000 children have gone through the stations so far. Fortunately, none of the parents who registered their children have needed the materials, he said.

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After signing a permission slip, parents receive a plastic bag containing the necessary materials for taking DNA samples from their children at home. Children then are fingerprinted using easy-to-remove graphite ink.

In a classroom, children are interviewed in front of a height chart while being digitally recorded. The interviewer asks the child his or her name, age and school, to show the child's voice patterns and mannerisms.

The child then is asked where he goes when he wants to be alone, which could be helpful later on if the child ever is lost, Sease said.

Older children are asked questions such as "Who are your friends?" "Where do you and your friends go?" or "Where do you go when you're afraid?" The answers to those questions may help police in finding a missing child.

The recorded video and audio are put onto a small compact disk, which is given to the parents.

If a child is abducted or otherwise missing, the parents give the CD to the police, and the image can be sent to other police stations and to Amber Alert.

Very young children are videotaped with the parent holding them and answering questions about the child, Miller said. The video recordings can be aged by computer software if a young child goes missing several years later, he said.

"If you report a missing child (to the police) as being a 12-year-old girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, every officer has a mental picture of her," Miller said. "But with the disk, they have the characteristics of the child."

"This is free, and the parent leaves with the fingerprint sheet, the CD and the DNA kit," Sease said.

All labor is volunteer, and any costs are covered by the Masons, he said. The program is under the umbrella of the Pennsylvania Masonic Foundation for Children.

Sease stressed that the Masons retain nothing but the permission slip. Parents remain with their child throughout the process.

Seventy-four children had gone through the stations at Hooverville Elementary School by 11:30 a.m.

The program was held at the annual communitywide yard sale that benefited the Hooverville Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization.

Rita Sterner-Hine, principal at Hooverville Elementary School, brought her two children, Evan, 5, and Rachel, 7, to the event.

"I think it's a valuable service," she said. "You never want to have to use this, but it's a good precautionary measure to have."

Shelby Mills, 7, sat quietly while Andrew Geesaman inked her fingers and rolled them on a sheet of paper. Shelby and her brother, Bryce Kendall, 9 months, were brought to the event by their parents, Heather and Justin Kendall of Waynesboro.

"This is for safety, for emergency cases," Heather Kendall said. "You can never be too safe."

Geesaman said that with very young children, the fingerprinting process "gets interesting. We had about 14 fingerprints on one of the sheets."

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