West Virginia Launches ID Cards for Kids

West Virginia Launches ID Cards for Kids

The initiative came from the office of West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood (R) and the Division of Motor Vehicles.

By John Makulowich Senior Writer

In an initiative sponsored by its governor, West Virginia recently became the first state in the nation and the first locale in the world to create a Child ID Program under its Division of Motor Vehicles.

Developed in partnership with Polaroid Corp., Bedford, Mass., the voluntary program allows children ages 2 to 15 to get digital ID cards at any of the state's 57 DMV offices.

The card itself carries a minimum amount of information, including the child's name, ID number, digital photo, card date of issue and expiration as well as toll-free 800 FOR KIDS call center number for the West Virginia State Police Missing Child Hotline.

Obtaining an ID card requires the child's birth certificate and Social Security number as proof of age and identity.

The card is backed by a database full of details accessible only to selected DMV officials and only released to police with the consent of parents. The ID card costs $2.50 per year and is good for two years.

The purpose of the program is to create a current database of images, including facial and fingerprints, as well as demographic data that the state can use to distribute electronically to law enforcement if a child is lost or missing.

According to Mary Jane Lopez, public relations manager with the West Virginia DMV, the program began July 9 and more than 2,000 children have gotten IDs. The total number of children in West Virginia who qualify for the ID is around 296,000.

"We hope to reach half of that number by this time next year," said Lopez, noting the effort will require additional funding from the state legislature to purchase mobile units to bring the technology to the schools.

Plans also call for cooperation from the Department of Health and Human Resources to ID foster children on their birthdays.

For Lopez, the program has gone as planned and the numbers enrolled are what was expected. With the anticipated funding from the legislature for the mobile units, outreach will begin in earnest to schools that can use this service, for example, those without security measures in place.

"The value of the facial image is not just as an ID. It can also be enhanced if the child is missing," Lopez said. "Access to the picture by law enforcement is only permitted if the child is lost. Even then, parents must give their consent."

The tamperproof identification is part of West Virginia's new digitized licensing program, which makes duplication nearly impossible.

Developed and supported by the Polaroid Identification and Transaction Systems Division, the child ID cards are produced on the DMV system, but are different in design from the state driver's license.

Alongside this first dedicated child ID program operated with a statewide driver's license program, West Virginia also was the first state in the nation last year to deploy a facial recognition system.

The purpose of that program was to reduce the issuance of fraudulent driver licenses.

The state, with about 1.8 million people, issues around 500,000 Polaroid-produced driver's licenses annually.

Richard Grimm, Polaroid program manager for the West Virginia project, noted that the initiative came from the office of Gov. Cecil Underwood (R) and the Division of Motor Vehicles, who saw that the infrastructure was in place to produce child ID cards.

"The idea was not to put very much information on the card itself, but to store it centrally. Details about the children are housed in a database in the DMV behind the state's firewall. Our mutual concern is not to enable something bad to happen with unauthorized access to that information," said Grimm.

Polaroid produces drivers' licenses and ID cards using both photographic and digital systems.

The company produces drivers' licenses in 37 states and provides digital licenses in several states, including California, Georgia and West Virginia.
Beyond this initiative, the company is moving quickly into the security area and now supplies Georgia with the largest biometric system worldwide: more than 4 million drivers with licenses that have fingerprint verification.

Worldwide, the company produces ID documents for governments in more than 60 countries.

Spurred by the growth of e-commerce and the increasing number of transactions conducted online each day, the company is working on biometrically secured smart cards, where all the data is housed on the card and not in a database.

Polaroid also is rolling out its personal finger scanner PFS 100, which is likely to be housed on the computer keyboard and connected to computers via the USB or parallel port.

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