Launch of the Special Needs Registry Program in Carolina Beach

CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WECT) – Agents at Carolina Beach are working to publicize a new program aimed at being proactive when it comes to interacting with families with special needs.

The CARE program, which is an acronym for Children and Resident Encounters, is a registry aimed at helping neighbors and visitors, whether it’s an adult family member with dementia or a an autistic child who has a history of wandering.

The program was launched last October and the department already has a handful of participants.

Families answer a questionnaire outlining basic contact details, the person’s physical description and important details about their history, routine and where they might go first if they move away.

From there, the information enters the system to be used if the person gets lost or needs help from first responders.

It’s a personal effort for its creator, CBPD Detective Brandon Smith. Smith has two sons with special needs.

“For a family that has a loved one with special needs, they can register that person and it really gives them peace of mind,” Smith said. “The last thing a parent wants to do when a crisis hits is to give their loved one’s name, date of birth, all the essential information we need to try to find that person – a photo. If we have already have this information, we can ignore all this and directly try to find it.

Smith knows firsthand what it’s like to be a parent in crisis. Last year, her son moved away.

“It was the scariest moment of my entire life – thank goodness we found it in six minutes. It’s an extremely quick response, but it was only thanks to things already in place, like a GPS tracker and local law enforcement in that area,” Smith said. “It felt like an eternity. You can go a long way in six minutes.”

The goal of the CARE program is to help investigators make the most of every precious minute of the search and minimize questions from distraught family members.

“You’re talking to a parent who’s in one of the worst cases he’s ever been involved in so you ask all these questions and sometimes he doesn’t even have the answer because his thought process is just locating his child, to search for their loved one,” said CBPD Sgt Colby Edens.

The registry can also help officers tailor the law enforcement response. The questionnaire invites families to provide information that can help officers understand how to calm a person with dementia once found, turn off radios when interacting with someone with a sensory disorder, or Advise the police not to approach a child with epilepsy with flashing lights on their patrol cars.

“It’s extremely important to have this if you have a loved one with special needs. It’s a puzzle – it’s another piece of the big picture puzzle, and that picture is basically to keep your loved ones safe,” Detective Smith said.

Nor are these emergency situations. Smith adds that the department wants to use the registry to convey information about free resources and events that families might also be interested in attending. If you want to learn more about CARE, visit the agency’s website here.

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