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February 5, 2005

Deaf kids need IDs, too

From: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, NY - Feb 5, 2005

Program helps all parents keep their children safe

Greg Livadas
Staff writer

(February 5, 2005) — Rebekah Marcus, who turns three next week, shyly turned away as she stood next to uniformed state troopers who took her fingerprints Friday.

Her behavior wasn't typical.

"She's usually really friendly," said her father, Bob Marcus of Henrietta. "She goes up to people and talks to them."

That's why Marcus and his wife, Coleen, brought Rebekah and their other daughter, Tabitha, 16 months, to The Marketplace mall, where the children can be videotaped and fingerprinted this weekend. The information could help find the children if they disappear.

The Child ID program, started in 1991, is provided free by the Masons, an international fraternity.

"This is our way of doing community service," said Child ID state chairman Clarence Eckhoff, of Sacketts Harbor, Jefferson County.

And for the first time in New York, the program is targeting deaf parents like the Marcuses. Deaf volunteers are helping register and videotape.

"Most of the deaf population in Monroe County live in The Marketplace mall area," said Harrison Parson Jr., 40, of Henrietta, a Mason who helped organize this weekend's event. "The deaf community has not benefited by this program. I am deaf and working to involve the deaf community in this most valuable program."

Hearing parents and children are also welcomed. Many shoppers passing by the vacant store Friday came in to receive the free video.

But Bob Marcus shares the same fears any parent has for their children.

"For a child like her, she's deaf, there's no way she can communicate for herself," he said, speaking of Tabitha, who was sucking on a pacifier in her stroller. Rebekah can hear.

The family left with two 10-minute videos of their daughters; they'll keep the videos in a safe place, hoping they'll never be needed.

Agencies that track runaways, abducted children and otherwise missing children are grateful for the Child ID program.

"It's very important. We stress as much as possible that parents really go the extra mile to make sure they have child identification kits," said Ed Suk, executive director of the local branch of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"The most critical time to get them back is within 24 hours. To have that kind of concrete accurate information to give law enforcement enables us to get children home more safely and readily."

Child ID program
What: Video footage and fingerprints of children, to be used in the event the child is missing. Deaf volunteers available.

Who: Open for any child, accompanied by a guardian, whether hearing or deaf.

When: today, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: The Marketplace mall, near J.C. Penny's, Henrietta.

Cost: Free.

Copyright 2005 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.