Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Indiana

Date:

Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: Child Welf. Man. Ch. 2, § 24

In policy: The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) will make ongoing diligent attempts to expeditiously locate any child missing from his or her placement. This includes a child who is placed or remains in home through an in-home child in need of services determination, trial home visit, or informal adjustment, or a child involved in an open assessment.

When a child involved in an open DCS case or assessment runs away or is missing, DCS will do the following:

  • Ensure the appropriate local law enforcement agency (LEA) is contacted immediately (no later than 24 hours) to report the child missing
  • Verify with the Indiana State Police (ISP) that the child has been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database
  • Complete the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) form
  • Email the NCMEC form, with a current photograph of the child attached, to the DCS child abuse hotline immediately (no later than 24 hours) for reporting to NCMEC
  • Ensure NCMEC is contacted to report the child's missing status and to provide requested details regarding the missing child
  • Ensure the child's parent, guardian, or custodian is notified, unless a termination of parental rights (TPR) has been finalized
  • Ensure the court is notified (if there is an open case)
  • Update the child's placement and document all actions taken in the case management system

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: Child Welf. Man. Ch. 2, § 24

When notified that a child involved in an open DCS case or assessment has run away or is missing, the family case manager (FCM) will do the following:

  • Advise the resource parent(s), residential provider, or custodial parent to contact the appropriate local LEA to file a runaway/missing person report
  • Gather pertinent information from the child's caregiver(s) and other household members regarding the following:
    • When and where the child was last seen
    • The child's last known state of mind
    • Any unusual events prior to the child's disappearance
    • Whether any of the child's possessions are missing from his or her placement
  • Ensure the child has been reported as missing to ISP and local LEA (within 24 hours) to request that the child is entered into the NCIC database, if not already done, and request ISP and local LEA reports
  • Complete the NCMEC form with pertinent information
  • Utilize the email button within the NCMEC form to generate an email to the hotline and ensure supporting documents and a current photograph of the child are attached to the email prior to sending
  • Verify with the hotline that NCMEC is contacted immediately (no later than 24 hours) after the youth has gone missing or runaway
  • Notify the FCM supervisor of the child's absence from care
  • Notify the parent, guardian, or custodian (unless a TPR is finalized) of the child's runaway or missing status and inquire about the child's whereabouts and any recent contact with the child
  • Notify the court of the child's runaway or missing status (if there is an open case)
  • Attempt to contact the child on his or her cell phone or social media, if applicable
  • Visit locations the child frequents (e.g., school, park, movie theaters)
  • Contact the child's family, friends, school staff, employer, and other individuals who have a close relationship with the child to inquire about the child's whereabouts and any recent contact with the child
  • Report new relevant information to ISP and local LEA, if applicable
  • Document the runaway/missing person episode, corresponding documents, and efforts to locate the child in case management system

Note: The FCM should continue regular attempts to contact the child, visits to locations the child frequents, and contact with the above individuals throughout the child's absence from care. Any new information gained should be reported to ISP and local LEA. All efforts and information gathered should be discussed with the FCM supervisor and documented in the case management system.

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

Citation: Child Welf. Man. Ch. 2, § 24

When the child is located, DCS will do the following:

  • Interview the child concerning the reason(s) the child ran away
  • Convene a child and family team (CFT) meeting within 5 business days of the child's return to discuss circumstances that led to the runaway episode

Determining the Suitability of Current and Subsequent Placements

Citation: Child Welf. Man. Ch. 2, § 24

When the child is located, DCS will convene a CFT meeting within 5 business days of the child's return to discuss and respond to the child's needs, circumstances that led to the runaway episode, placement concerns, safety issues, and any additional topics that may affect stability for the child.

Note: A new placement cannot be entered for a child until the Indiana Human Trafficking Screening Tool has been completed for the child who had a runaway or missing person episode.

Assessing the Child's Experiences While Absent From Care

Citation: Child Welf. Man. Ch. 2, § 24

When the child is located, DCS will do the following:

  • Notify the child's parent, guardian, or custodian; the court (if there is an open case); ISP; local LEA; NCMEC; and all other parties previously contacted to assist in the search for the child
  • Interview the child concerning the reason(s) the child ran away and where and with whom the child was residing
  • Complete the Indiana Human Trafficking Screening Tool in the case management system
  • If recommended by the Indiana Human Trafficking Screening Tool, complete the Indiana Human Trafficking Assessment Tool
  • Discuss the case and the results of the Indiana Human Trafficking Assessment Tool to determine next steps regarding the following:
    • Safety needs
    • Placement
    • Service referrals
    • Involvement of LEA
    • The need for a human trafficking forensic interview
  • Document the results of the Indiana Human Trafficking Assessment Tool in the case management system

When the child is located, the FCM will do the following:

  • Ensure the FCM supervisor is aware that the child has been located
  • Notify ISP; local LEA; NCMEC; the parent, guardian, or custodian (unless TPR is finalized); and the court (if there is an open case)
  • Interview the child as soon as possible (within 48 hours) and complete the Indiana Human Trafficking Screening Tool in the case management system
  • If recommended by the Indiana Human Trafficking Screening Tool, complete the Indiana Human Trafficking Assessment Tool
  • Discuss the case and the results of the Indiana Human Trafficking Assessment Tool with the FCM supervisor to determine next steps regarding the following:
    • Safety needs
    • Placement
    • Service referrals
    • Involvement of LEA
    • The need for a human trafficking forensic interview
  • Contact the hotline to make a new report if a child discloses human trafficking
  • Convene a CFT meeting within 5 business days of the child's return to discuss and plan to meet the child's needs, with a focus on safety, and respond to the needs of current and subsequent placements
  • Update the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths Assessment, in accordance with the critical case juncture of returning from a runaway or missing person episode
  • Document all decisions and actions in the case management system

The FCM supervisor will do the following:

  • Discuss the case and the Indiana Human Trafficking Assessment Tool with the FCM
  • Utilize the Human Trafficking Assessment Scoring Guide to provide guidance on next steps

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

Citation: Child Welf. Man. Ch. 2, § 24

DCS will continue to make foster care payments to the resource parent(s) for a maximum of 5 days when a child in out-of-home placement is missing or runs away if the intent is for the child to return to the same resource parent(s). A bed hold will end prior to 5 days if there is no intent for the child to return to the resource home. If the child does not return to the placement within 5 consecutive days of absence, then the placement and per diem charge will be terminated for that child, unless otherwise approved by the DCS regional manager.