Delaware teams up with National Child Identification Program to improve its ability to locate missing children

More than 150,000 at-home ID kits provided to Delaware families will help investigators locate the kids should they go missing.

Bethany Hall-Long speaks at a podium.

File photo: Lieutenant Governor of Delaware Bethany Hall-Long, shown here speaking at an event in 2019, supports Delaware's new partnership with the National Child Identification Program. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

More than 1,000 children are reported missing every day, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In Delaware, 58 kids went missing or ran away in 2022.

In an effort to help investigators locate children when they go missing, Delaware has partnered with the National Child Identification Program. The program provides extra resources to Delaware families and law enforcement to assist their search.

“It has been an important piece of my office as lieutenant governor with the Behavioral Health Consortium, making sure families and children are safe,” said Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long. “Oftentimes [that means] addressing mental health, behavioral health, but it also means that we can do [more] to protect families.”

According to the NCMEC, out of the more than 25,000 cases of children reported missing in 2022, one out of six who had run away were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“So this is a really important tool to have as a tool kit, hopefully one that no parent or state needs,” Hall-Long said. “But it’s always nice to have it in case it is needed.”

The program claims to be more effective than traditional identification programs due to its comprehensive nature and ability to store descriptive information in one place. This is especially useful when a child’s appearance changes rapidly, making identification difficult with simple alterations in clothing or hair. Unlike other identification programs that require fingerprinting, which can take hours to complete, this program streamlines the process and is particularly useful in areas with limited enforcement resources.

The state is distributing 156,000 at-home child ID kits that include an inkless fingerprint solution, DNA storage, a place for medical/dental records, and an area to offer observations about the child’s physical appearance. The kit is said to take about two minutes to complete.

“What the ID kit does is that, in one very easy to find place, it has a DNA sample, it’s got a fingerprint,” said Brian Moore, the program manager for school climate for the Delaware Department of Education. “It’s got a recent picture and biographical information that a parent who clearly is under stress is able to provide to law enforcement without having to sort of root around and try and find things that may help them conduct an investigation quickly.”

“That’s something my kids had,” said New Castle resident Robyn Noonan, who has four children and two grandchildren. “I haven’t seen it in years… I assumed maybe they stopped it.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Noonan said she’s glad to see the program resurface. She remembers taking a DNA sample for each of her children and carrying a card the size of a credit card that included all of their personal information.

“It’s a good thing just to have because a lot of parents don’t have anything. I mean you have pictures. But as far as fingerprints or any other [information] that can identify their kid quickly, you don’t.”

The kits will be made available for parents and children at the start of the next school year and at a variety of community events.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal