The task was an important one, but it was clear Lucas Visscher was none-too-pleased with the attention he received from Canada Border Services Agency officers stationed at the South Surrey Walmart last week.
The photo they snapped of the two-year-old shows a pouty face, and it took some convincing before his little handprints became a reality in the passport that will help authorities locate and identify the tot should he ever go missing.
But the value of the effort was not lost on Lucas’s mom.
“What a good idea,” Kristin Visscher said, noting she plans to put together a similar passport for her older son, Owen.
While terrifying events such as a child abduction are “one of those things that happens to other people,” Visscher acknowledged the value of being prepared.
That was the message officers Colleen Lutz, Rob Currie, Sina Barzin and Masao Wakita spent the day delivering May 25, to mark the 25th anniversary of National Missing Children’s Day.
“You never want to think about it, but it will happen one day, to someone’s child,” said Currie, who works at the Pacific Highway border crossing. “Every day we go to work, we look for kids.”
The CBSA is one of four government agencies that partner to help reunite missing, abducted and smuggled children with their families through the Our Missing Children program. Since the program began, 1,650 children have been returned to their legal guardians, including 15 last year – nine runaways, five who were taken by a parent and one child who had been abducted by a stranger.
Currie said passports like those distributed last week, which include a child’s hand-, finger- or footprints (in the case of an infant) and photo, are a “huge” help in such searches.
Barzin noted the details give authorities a “head start.”
For Tania Holmes, who had passports made for her four-year-old sons Carson and Jeremy, having the information in order is “a great idea.”
Officer Wakita, who also works at the Pacific Highway crossing, advised those travelling with children to make sure they have the proper documents and authority to do so. Wakita said he often sends such people in for secondary examination, just to be sure the adult has permission to take the child across the border. Often, those targeted are lone adults travelling with a young child who can’t speak for him or herself, he said.
“The ones that can’t talk on their own, speak on their own – those are our biggest concern,” Wakita said.
To avoid delays at the borders when travelling with children, the officers recommend carrying proper identification and a letter of permission for any child that is travelling without their parents or a legal guardian. If custody is shared, bring copies of the legal documents. And, parents travelling with a group should be sure to arrive at the border in the same vehicle as their child.