Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Arizona

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Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: DCS Pol. & Proc. Man., Ch. 4, § 8.1

From the Arizona Department of Child Safety Policy and Procedure Manual: The Department of Child Safety (DCS) shall report immediately, and in no case later than 24 hours, after receiving information on missing or abducted children or youth to the following:

  • Law enforcement authorities for entry into the National Crime Information Center database
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: DCS Pol. & Proc. Man., Ch. 4, § 8.1

DCS shall make reasonable efforts to locate a child who is a ward of the court; placed in the care, custody, and control of DCS; and who has run away from an out-of-home placement.

Upon receiving information that a child has left an out-of-home placement and is determined to be on runaway status, the department shall ensure immediate notification of the child's disappearance to the child's parents, attorney, guardian ad litem, and caregiver.

Upon notification that a child or youth has runaway, the DCS specialist (or other staff as approved by the supervisor) will do the following:

  • Contact the out-of-home provider by the next working day to ensure that a report to local law enforcement has been filed
  • Make a home visit to attempt contact with any identified parent, relative, or other significant person the child may have contacted
  • Contact the assistant attorney general within 24 hours of the child's disappearance and initiate a motion for an order to pick up the child
  • Contact the child's school and obtain any pertinent information regarding the child's disappearance
  • Attempt to contact the child's friends
  • Contact any prior placements the child may have contacted and determine if they have any current information about the child

With approval of the supervisor, the DCS specialist may submit a referral to the At-Risk Runaways service for assistance in locating a runaway child when one or more of the following circumstances exist:

  • The child is suicidal.
  • The child has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, is prescribed medication for the mental illness, and may pose a danger to self and/or others if not receiving treatment and medication as prescribed.
  • The child suffers from a serious physical illness and is prescribed medication, which if not available or administered properly, could place the child at risk of serious physical harm.
  • The child is pregnant.
  • Other specific child safety concerns exist (i.e., the child is age13 or younger, the child is with a known perpetrator of abuse or neglect, the child is significantly developmentally delayed).
  • The child is known to be, or is at risk of becoming, a victim of sex trafficking. Risk factors include, but are not limited to, substance use, gang affiliation, delinquency, or previous victimization.

If the child remains on runaway status and is not able to be located for a period of 90 days or longer, the DCS specialist (or other staff as approved by the supervisor) must recontact the following:

  • The child's previous out-of-home care providers to obtain any pertinent information in locating the child
  • The child's previous school (if enrolled prior to running away) and obtain any pertinent information for locating the child
  • The child's parents, relatives, or other significant persons to obtain any pertinent information for locating the child

Determining the Factors That Led to a Child's Absence From Care

Citation: DCS Pol. & Proc. Man., Ch. 4, § 8.1

After the child returns to out-of-home care, the DCS specialist must document the factors that contributed to the child running away.

Determining the Suitability of Current and Subsequent Placements

Citation: DCS Pol. & Proc. Man., Ch. 4, § 8.1

Upon the child's return to out-of-home care, the DCS specialist must assess the appropriateness of the child returning to the same out-of-home placement and terminate the placement service authorization if a decision is made that the child will not return to the same out-of-home care provider.

Assessing the Child's Experiences While Absent From Care

Citation: DCS Pol. & Proc. Man., Ch. 4, § 8.1

Upon the child's return to out-of-home care, the DCS specialist must do the following:

  • Make a face-to-face contact with the child within 24 hours and determine the need for additional services
  • Obtain a medical exam for any child when there is indication of high-risk behaviors (e.g., sexual activity, drug use) while on runaway status
  • Notify the appropriate local law enforcement agency that the child has returned
  • Contact the assistant attorney general and initiate a motion to vacate the pick-up order once the child has returned to out-of-home care
  • Notify NCMEC's assigned case manager

Upon the child's return to out-of-home care, the DCS specialist must assess the child€™s experiences while absent from care, including screening to determine if the child is a sex trafficking victim. The DCS specialist must report to the appropriate law enforcement agency within 24 hours if it is determined the child was a sex trafficking victim.

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

Citation: DCS Pol. & Proc. Man., Ch. 4, § 8.1

If the child remains on runaway status for a period of 6 months or longer and documented diligent efforts have been made to locate the child, the DCS specialist may consult with the child's service team to determine the appropriateness of filing a motion to dismiss the dependency petition, or other course of action.

Before recommending that the dependency petition be dismissed, the DCS specialist must consider the following:

  • Has the child been in contact with any service team member?
  • Has the child expressed any interest in participating in services, including placement by the department?
  • Is the child fully informed of the benefits and services that he or she will forfeit if the dependency petition is dismissed before the child's 18th birthday?
  • Is the child in need of proper and effective parental care and control?

It is not appropriate to recommend dismissal of the dependency petition if any of the following apply:

  • The child is suicidal.
  • The child has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, is prescribed medication for the mental illness, and may pose a danger to self and/or others if not receiving treatment and medication as prescribed.
  • The child suffers from a serious physical illness and is prescribed medication, which if not available or administered properly could place the child at risk of serious physical harm.
  • The child is pregnant.
  • Other specific child safety concerns exist (e.g., the child is of a young age, the child is with a known perpetrator of abuse or neglect, the child is significantly developmentally delayed).

If the service team recommends filing a motion to dismiss the dependency petition, the DCS specialist must consult with the assigned assistant attorney general regarding this recommendation.