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Important news, announcements, and articles by AMECO

An Annual Child Identification Day

AMECO member Enfant-Retour Quebec/The Missing Children’s Network has established a successful Annual Provincial Child ID Day in their community. The event has been a great success each year and Director General Pina Arcamone was kind enough to share information about the event that might be helpful to anyone wanting to start a similar initiative in their communities.

AMECO: How long have you been doing this event?

Pina Arcamone: Our Province-Wide Child ID Day was launched back in 2002. Our corporate partner at that time was McDonald’s Restaurants.

A: How did the idea for the event come about?

PA: In 1993, the Missing Children’s Network launched its Child ID program in Quebec. During the year, we would organize and host a number of ID clinics in and around the Greater Montreal area. A few years later, McDonald’s approached us to host an Annual Child ID Day in all of their Montreal locations. McDonald’s photographed the children as each restaurant owned Polaroids; they also printed all the ID booklets and helped promote the day. We ensured that local law enforcement was present at each location, along with volunteers of the Network. Based on the success of this day, McDonald’s asked if it would be possible to add the North Shore of Montreal to the campaign and the following year, we added the South Shore. Because of the close collaboration we have with law enforcement from all across Québec, we proposed in 2002 a province-wide initiative and McDonald’s enthusiastically jumped on board! Since then, our Annual Child ID Day has been a part of our calendar of events. In 2010, McDonald’s Restaurants passed the torch to a Quebec-based pharmacy chain Groupe Jean Coutu.

A: How much has the event grown over the years? Are more store locations and families participating as the years go on?

PA: The event continues to grow every year. We started with 150 locations and this year, 181 Jean Coutu pharmacies opened their doors and welcomed our families. This year, a well-known radio personality served as honourary spokesperson and with the help of a local agency, we produced a 30-second spot that aired free of charge on most radio stations all across the province. We receive huge media coverage on the days leading to the clinic and on the day itself. This campaign allows us to sensitize the public about the issue of missing and exploited children and discuss the importance of always having up-to-date information of one’s child.

Every year, we complete between 12,000-15,000 ID booklets. We also distribute a safety tool. This year, we designed a Real World and Online Safety bookmark that was given to every child that attended the clinic. All around, it’s a very positive day for all those involved.

I am happy to say that several parents of missing children also volunteer on that day! It’s important to note that following the clinic, we receive calls from several schools that wish to have a personal safety workshop presented to their students.

A: Have you run into any logistical issues? How have you solved them?

PA: We have not encountered any serious issues. We hold three production meetings a year and everyone’s role is pretty much defined. We have developed a number of tools and check lists that allow all the partners to stay on track. We are a well-oiled machine by now!

A: Do you have tips for others as to how they can start a similar annual event in their communities?

PA: Start slow; identify a partner that shares your values and is committed to the well-being of children. A partner that has access to all the photo accessories and can offer several locations. A partner that is willing to invest in kids, help overwrite the printing costs for the booklets/ink pads/height charts and support a media campaign (TV; print, radio, web).

A: Is there anything else you would like to share?

PA: Our Province-Wide Child ID Day is now our single most important child safety campaign of the year. It has helped solidify our relationship with law enforcement and the media and has given a lot of credibility to the organization. As an organization, we are sometimes faced with tough decisions. Last year, we lost the support of Canon Canada for our ID Program. Their support was critical as they supplied us with all the cameras, printers, and photo paper. Canon also replaced free of charge any equipment that was malfunctioning. When they pulled out of the program, we were very disappointed as we did not have the finances to replace the equipment. Plus, we were fundraising in a very weak economy, yet the demands for our services and programs were increasing day-by-day. As a team, we made a decision to eliminate all the numerous independent clinics that we hosted in the year. This was very time-consuming on our already limited and stretched resources. Today, we can now focus on one MAJOR clinic a year (law enforcement like this as well as they too are faced with budgetary cuts and cannot support the demands from the community to host several clinics a year) for our mission, which is to recover missing children and prevent others from disappearing. Anyone that cannot attend the clinic has the option to download our Child Alert APP or download from our website, an information record of their child.