Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Arkansas

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Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: DCFS Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. VII-N1

From the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) Policy and Procedure Manual: After receiving notification of the child's disappearance by the placement provider, the caseworker will do the following:

  • Notify the State police, local police department, and/or sheriff's office, as applicable, within 2 hours after receiving information on missing or abducted children or youth. The notification, which may occur via email, text, or phone, will include the following:
    • The child's name
    • A physical description of the child (a picture of the child may be released to assist with identification provided that the child is not identified as a child in foster care)
    • The child's date of birth
    • The circumstances of the missing child's disappearance, including the date the child went missing or was last seen and if the child indicated a destination (and, if so, what the destination is)
    • Any other factual, biographical, or historical information that may assist with locating the missing child
    • A request for law enforcement to enter the information into the National Crime Information Center database of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Once a police report has been filed, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) no later than 24 hours after receiving information on missing or abducted children or youth to provide the following information to NCMEC per the Memorandum of Understanding between DCFS and NCMEC:
    • The child's name
    • A photo of the child, if available
    • The child's date of birth
    • The name and contact information of the primary caseworker and supervisor
    • The investigating law enforcement agency name, contact information, and case number (i.e., missing person report number)
    • The circumstances of the missing child's disappearance, including the date the child went missing or was last seen
    • Any other factual, biographical, or historical information that may assist with locating the missing child
  • Upon NCMEC's request, release to NCMEC any additional requested information and/or records in its possession that are relevant to locating the missing child.
  • Keep NCMEC informed with up-to-date information regarding the missing child.

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: DCFS Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. VII-N; VII-N1

If the placement provider has reason to believe the child left the out-of-home placement of his or her own accord (i.e., ran away), then the placement provider will begin an immediate search for the child/youth. The search will entail the following actions:

  • Searching the immediate premises
  • Searching the community and contacting the child's friends and other contacts who may know of or have information regarding the child's whereabouts

If the child is located within 1 hour of initiating the search, the placement provider will notify the primary caseworker and the caseworker's supervisor of the incident no later than the next calendar day. If the child who is believed to have run away of his/her own accord cannot be located within 1 hour of initiating the search, then at that point the placement provider will immediately notify the youth's caseworker and the caseworker's supervisor.

After receiving notification of the child's disappearance by the placement provider, the primary caseworker will do the following:

  • Notify the child's secondary caseworker, transitional youth services coordinator (if applicable), and attorney ad litem within 2 hours via email, phone, or text
  • Notify the child's custodial/noncustodial parent(s) within 2 hours, or sooner depending on the age of the child, of the discovery of the child's disappearance by phone or, preferably, a visit to the home, if possible
  • Contact the local Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) and request OCC to complete and file a pick-up order for the child no later than 24 hours after receiving notification of a missing child (which will put the court on notice that the child is missing)
  • Update the child's placement information in the Children's Reporting Information System (CHRIS) within 2 business days, to include completion of fields regarding the required reports made to local law enforcement and NCMEC
  • If the child is not found, do the following:
    • Continue to call previously contacted parties and inquire for information, furnish further information that becomes available, and, if appropriate, extend the search to other counties and States
    • Update the custodial/noncustodial parents to assure them that the search continues no less than weekly when current contact information for the custodial/noncustodial parents is available (not applicable to parents whose parental rights have been terminated)

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

Citation: DCFS Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. VII-N

When the division receives notification that a child has run away from out-of-home care, the caseworker will conduct a visit with the child and placement provider by the next business day to assess why the child ran away and what immediate steps may need to be taken to better support both the child and placement provider.

Determining the Suitability of Current and Subsequent Placements

Citation: DCFS Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. VII-N2

When a child missing from an out-of-home placement is located, the caseworker will conduct a visit with the child and placement provider by the next business day after the child has been located to determine what immediate needs the child and/or placement provider may have and what immediate steps may need to be taken to better support both the child and placement provider.

Assessing the Child's Experiences While Absent From Care

Citation: DCFS Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. VII-N2

When a child missing from an out-of-home placement is located, the caseworker will do the following:

  • Ensure the child has a physical exam by his/her primary care physician, if possible, within 72 hours of locating the child or immediately in the case of a medical emergency
  • Notify immediately (but no later than 24 hours after the child has been located) all parties and individuals previously notified of the child's disappearance that the child has been located
  • Update the child's placement screen in CHRIS within 2 business days of locating the child
  • Determine the primary factors that contributed to the child's running away or otherwise being absent from foster care, including the following:
    • Updating the child's Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment, including completion of the runaway CANS module within 30 days of locating the child
    • Determining if the child is a possible sex trafficking victim based on responses to the updated CANS and any other information gathered

If there is reason to believe the child is, or is at risk of being, a victim of sex trafficking, the caseworker must do the following:

  • Document the finding accordingly in CHRIS and conference with the supervisor to determine appropriate next steps for additional screening related to sex trafficking victims and/or referral to appropriate services
  • Report information on children or youth who have been identified as being a sex trafficking victim to local law enforcement immediately, and in no case later than 24 hours after receiving the information

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

Citation: DCFS Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. VII-N1

Even when the child is placed on runaway status, the child's Medicaid case will remain open. If the child is still on runaway status at the time of his/her Medicaid redetermination (i.e., the anniversary of his/her entering foster care), then the Medicaid case will be closed at that time.