WHAT IS IT?
DNA–PROKIDS is a humanitarian project that uses DNA and DNA databases to fight the global trafficking of children for reasons of illicit adoption, prostitution, forced labor, or for recruitment of minors as child soldiers. The University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas (UNTHSC) and its world-leading operational laboratories, the UNT Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI), perform DNA testing, at no charge, for participating countries and provide genetic information in a secure format to law enforcement agencies.
The ultimate goal of DNA-Prokids is the development of DNA registries in countries that have been most susceptible to human trafficking in order to help identify those children who have been victims and their perpetrators. DNA-Prokids promotes this global initiative to encourage the utilization and growth of DNA databases, facilitating communication among countries. DNA-Prokids advocates for the implementation of a model of cooperation and coordination, routinely seen in criminal investigations through international law enforcement agencies such as INTERPOL, making those involved in human trafficking more reluctant to commit these heinous crimes. The utilization of these databases provides authorities with additional tools that could significantly increase the likelihood of identifying and apprehending the individuals responsible for committing these crimes against children.
DNA Pro-kids reunited Brenda with her abducted daughter. Watch this video for her story.
DOES IT WORK?
Yes. To date, the program has conclusively demonstrated the ability to use DNA to prevent and combat human trafficking. This unique global program utilizes scientific data to provide law enforcement officials and governmental authorities indisputable proof of kinship. Since 2007, DNA-Prokids has processed nearly 11,000 samples that has resulted in reuniting 724 children with their parents, preventing hundreds of illegal adoptions.
DNA-Prokids has received international recognition from mainstream media, including the New York Times, Biotechniques, Redoribit.com, and most recently by the Pope and the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences in 2103 at the Vatican in Rome. In November 2013, Pope Francis and the Pontifical Sciences cited DNA-Prokids as a model program to be used in all countries to prevent modern slavery. As a result of that meeting, Pope Francis urged the enactment of number of recommendations. Two of these recommendations were specific to the use of DNA and the construction of DNA databases: (1) Introduce a compulsory system of birth registration, incorporating DNA identification in cases of risk or need; and (2) Prioritize the eradication of child trafficking, including trafficking for sexual exploitation, and ensure the early identification of children who may be victims. To this end consider innovative means such as the establishment of national DNA databases to identify and prevent child trafficking. These recommendations made by Pope Francis capture the basis of the DNA-Prokids program.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
DNA-Prokids helps countries establish two separate databases for each country that contain samples collected from: (1) family members looking for missing children; and (2) children rescued from prostitutes rings, slave labor operations, orphanages and the street. The program uses specialized kinship software, M-FISys that was developed for and used to store and compare samples recovered from the World Trade Center Disaster in 2001. M-FISys allows participating countries to keep their data confidential and secure, yet still allows the data to be searched to identify potential associations between children and parents. The ability to compare and search the databases in each country is critical to law enforcement’s ability to solve crimes involving child and human trafficking.
Additionally, DNA-Prokids works with local organizations to collect samples and to educate the community about the need for processing samples. A priority of the program is the transfer of knowledge to local officials, including NGOs and government agencies, through on-going, easily accessible training and education.