Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Louisiana

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Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: DCFS Pol. Man., Pol. # 6-1215

In policy: Upon notice that a child in foster care has run away, has been kidnapped, is lost, or is otherwise missing, the following shall be done immediately:

  • The case manager shall immediately contact a State or local law enforcement agency to report the child's runaway or absent status. The case manager shall request and document the law enforcement file number of the report.
  • Even when a caregiver has made a report of the child's status, the case manager shall follow up with a State or local law enforcement agency to coordinate efforts to locate the child and to ensure all necessary information has been reported.
  • The case manager immediately shall request law enforcement enter the child on the National Crime Information Center's (NCIC) database and record the NCIC case number in the case record. Case managers must notify law enforcement that the child is in foster care.
  • The case manager immediately shall ask the law enforcement agency to evaluate if the report meets criteria for the Louisiana Amber Alert System.
  • The case manager shall list the child as a missing child or endangered runaway on the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children's (NCMEC) database. This referral shall be reported immediately, but in no case should the reporting exceed 24 hours since the child's departure.
  • The case manager immediately shall provide the local law enforcement agency with a recent photograph of the child and/or description of the child, which may include photographs, fingerprints, marks, scars, tattoos, and any other identifying information.

Within 3 calendar days of a notice that a child in foster care has run away, has been kidnapped, is lost, or is otherwise missing, the case manager shall follow up with the law enforcement agency to coordinate efforts to locate the child and, if necessary, to confirm the child has been entered on the NCIC database and the Louisiana Amber Alert System, if the case meets Amber Alert criteria.

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: DCFS Pol. Man., Pol. # 6-1215

When a child in foster care is on runaway, missing, or kidnapped, the following procedures shall be followed to ensure all avenues to locate the child are taken. It also should be noted that all children in foster care on runaway are to be considered missing children, regardless of the reason for their running away or the behaviors associated with the runaway incident. Collaborative work with all professionals named in this policy regarding the runaway, missing, or abducted child is essential.

When notifying other agencies that a child is missing or has run away, the case manager shall advise the other agencies of the necessity of maintaining the confidentiality of the child's foster care status.

Immediately upon noticing a child in foster care has run away, has been kidnapped, is lost, or is otherwise missing, the case manager shall notify the child's parents, court-appointed special advocate (CASA), and the child's attorney that the child is missing or has run away.

Within 24 hours of a notice that a child in foster care has run away, has been kidnapped, is lost, or is otherwise missing, the following shall be done:

  • The case manager shall notify the court the child is missing, has run away, or been abducted.
  • In regions where necessary only, the case manager shall file a verified complaint through the juvenile court, which may issue a pick-up order for the child in accordance with local court procedures for such filings.

Within 3 calendar days of a notice that a child in foster care has run away, has been kidnapped, is lost, or is otherwise missing, the following shall be done:

  • The following information shall be sent to State Office Field Operations:
    • Details of the runaway/missing/kidnapped incident, including dates
    • Most recent, clear photograph available and the date it was taken
    • Date the child was last seen
    • Physical characteristics, distinguishing features, and clothes the child was wearing at the time of disappearance
    • Any possible locations and addresses where the child may be found
    • Individuals the child is known to contact
    • The number of runaway incidents in the past 6 months and where the child was found on each occasion
    • Any indication, suspicion, or proof of human trafficking, which includes forced labor, prostitution, exotic dancing, or pornography production
  • The case manager shall make appropriate contacts to family, friends, previous places the child was located when on runaway, other agencies, etc., in an attempt to locate the child.

The case manager shall document each contact and effort made to locate the child in the case notes. The documentation should include the telephone numbers and addresses used for contacts.

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

Citation: DCFS Pol. Man., Pol. # 6-1215

If the child has runaway three or more times in a 6-month period, the case manager worker shall convene a meeting of individuals selected by the youth and people important to the youth to discuss their continued reasons for running away and what would help them to feel safe or content enough to not run anymore. The case manager shall attend the meeting.

Determining the Suitability of Current and Subsequent Placements

Citation: DCFS Pol. Man., Pol. # 6-1215

When the foster child is located, the child should be returned by the case manager to the same foster care placement, if the placement can safely provide care for the child, is willing to accept the child, and is still appropriate based on information collected from the child regarding the events leading to the runaway episode. An assessment to determine the appropriateness of returning the child to the same placement must be made when the child states he or she ran away because he or she was mistreated. If there is any indication the child may have been abused and/or neglected, the matter shall be reported to centralized intake. Law enforcement shall be contacted as appropriate.

Assessing the Child's Experiences While Absent From Care

Citation: DCFS Pol. Man., Pol. # 6-1215

When a missing child has been found, the following parties shall be notified immediately:

  • Law enforcement, with a request to notify NCIC
  • The child's parents
  • The CASA
  • The child's attorney

When the child's whereabouts become known, the following shall be notified by the next working day:

  • The court
  • DCFS State Office Field Operations
  • NCMEC, if a child was reported as missing to them
  • Any others contacted and/or requested to help in the search for the child

Within 3 working days after a child who had previously been missing is located, the following actions shall be completed and documented:

  • An in-person, private interview with the child by the case manager
  • A medical exam of the child
  • An updated photograph taken

Within 5 working days of the child being located, a staffing to include the child welfare manager, supervisor, and case manager shall be held to discuss the information collected and need for services or actions. When there is any concern of forced labor and/or prostitution, exotic dancing, or participation in pornography (indicators of trafficking of children for sexual purposes), a summary of the runaway/missing/kidnapped event and the required documents shall be sent to the State Office. Once the packet of forms is received by the State Office, a staffing will be scheduled by the next working day to occur within a week. The staffing will include the human trafficking representative from State Office Field Operations, Foster Care, and Child Protection Investigations. The necessity for further intervention will be determined during the staffing.

If further intervention is necessary, it may include any of the following by the human trafficking representatives:

  • A case review
  • Further interviews with the child
  • Reports to law enforcement not previously made by the field office
  • Consideration of resources available to assist with suspected or confirmed trafficking

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

Citation: DCFS Pol. Man., Pol. # 6-1215

When a missing child is absent from the foster care placement overnight, the Tracking Information and Payment System (TIPS) code 100 109 shall be entered in the service authorizations. When entering this code, the child's TIPS number shall be used as the provider number. This code is to be entered no later than the next working day when a child is reported missing. This code allows the data system to track a child as missing.

If the child is in an in-home, payable placement that will accept return of the child, and it is expected the child will return quickly, TIPS code 100 109 is used. This will keep the placement authorization for the provider open, to pay the placement for the purpose of reserving space for the child for up to the first 15 days of the missing status. This shall not exceed 15 days. After 15 days of absence, the case manager shall end the placement authorization for the provider.

If a provider accepts payment during the first 15 days to reserve space for the child but then refuses to accept placement of the child when he or she is found during that timeframe, the Department of Children and Family Services shall attempt to recoup any payment provided to reserve space for the child.

For 6 months following the date the child went missing, efforts should continue by law enforcement systems, the case manager, the foster parent/caregiver, and the parents to locate the runaway or missing foster child. The case manager should document efforts monthly in case documentation.

If, after a 6-month search, the child is not located, the case manager shall do the following:

  • Submit a letter to the court documenting efforts to locate the child and requesting that the department be relieved of custody
  • Advise the parents, the CASA, and the child's attorney of the department's request to the court for release of custody

Until the department is relieved of custody, the foster child's case record shall remain open and the case manager should continue efforts to follow up with law enforcement, family, and friends at least monthly in an attempt to locate the child. Once relieved of custody, the foster care case record should be closed and transferred to the parish with court of jurisdiction.