Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Michigan

Date:

Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: Foster Care Manual, FOM 722-03A

From the Foster Care Manual: The term 'absent without legal permission' (AWOLP) is used when a child who is placed with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for care and supervision is absent from an approved placement without legal permission.

Foster parents, relative/unrelated caregivers, parents, and/or residential facility staff must immediately notify law enforcement agencies (i.e., State police, local police, the sheriff's department) and the supervising agency when a youth under their care fails to return at the expected time or leaves a home without permission. Upon notification, the supervising agency must immediately file a missing person report with the local law enforcement agency, classifying the youth as missing and endangered.

Within 24 hours of the child's absence from his or her placement, the supervising agency must notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Caseworkers and monitoring workers must take the following actions within 1 business day of the child's absence:

  • Confirm the child has been classified as missing and endangered on the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN)
  • Obtain the NCIC number (the number assigned by the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) to all records that verifies that the missing youth was entered into NCIC) from the law enforcement agency where the missing youth was reported missing

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: Foster Care Manual, FOM 722-03A

Within 24 hours of the child's absence, the supervising agency must notify the following:

  • The court of jurisdiction
  • The parents, if appropriate
  • The lawyer-guardian ad litem

The supervising agency must take the following actions within 1 business day of the child's absence:

  • Update the information system with an AWOLP placement
  • Document actions taken to locate the child in the information system
  • Complete an unauthorized leave report and send a copy to the court
  • Provide a copy of the unauthorized leave report to the local law enforcement agency to ensure that the child is entered on LEIN as missing and endangered
  • Document that the child's AWOLP status has been reported to NCMEC

As soon as possible, but within 2 business days of the child's absence, the supervising agency must commence a diligent search for the child. Required actions include the following:

  • Review all available information in the case file for information on the potential location of child
  • Contact family members, unrelated caregivers, friends, known associates, churches, or a neighborhood center
  • Contact the school that the child last attended to verify that the child is not in attendance and determine if there are friends/teachers who may have information
  • Contact the local school district office to determine if the child has enrolled in a new school
  • Complete an internet search and search social networking sites for the child, the child's parents, known relatives, and acquaintances, if applicable
  • Forward any new contacts or results to the court and law enforcement

Ongoing AWOLP diligent search efforts require, at a minimum, that the caseworker complete a diligent search every calendar month until the child is located. The assigned caseworker must document all efforts to locate a child and any child-initiated contacts in the case service plan. The caseworker must continue to notify law enforcement of any new information to aid in their efforts to locate the youth.

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

Citation: Foster Care Manual, FOM 722-03A

As soon as possible, but no later than 5 business days after locating the youth, the supervising agency must meet with the youth to determine the primary factors that contributed to the youth running away.

Caseworkers may utilize the DHS-5333, Conversation Guide on Return from AWOLP during the discussion with the youth. The conversation shall be structured to determine the primary factors that contributed to the youth being absent from foster care and shall include discussion of the following questions:

  • What led the youth to leave placement?
  • Did the placement address the youth's needs?
  • Was there an incident that caused the youth to leave the placement?

Determining the Suitability of Current and Subsequent Placements

Citation: Foster Care Manual, FOM 722-03A

As soon as possible, but no later than 5 business days after locating the youth, the supervising agency must meet with the youth to determine the ways in which the youth's placement should respond to the primary factors that contributed to the youth running away.

From the Conversation Guide: The conversation with the youth following his or her return also should identify future placement needs and services, including a discussion of the following questions:

  • What are the youth's preferences for the next placement?
  • What can the current or next placement do to the needs of the youth?

Assessing the Child's Experiences While Absent From Care

Citation: Foster Care Manual, FOM 722-03A

As soon as possible, but no later than 1 business day after locating the youth, the supervising agency must take the following actions:

  • Notify NCMEC that the child has been located
  • Notify local law enforcement that the child has been located

As soon as possible, but no later than 5 business days after locating the youth, the supervising agency must meet with the youth to determine the youth's activities while AWOLP, including if the youth was a victim of sex trafficking. If it is suspected that the youth was a victim of human trafficking, the caseworker must immediately contact centralized intake for a complete investigation.

From the Conversation Guide: Upon locating a youth who is AWOLP, Federal mandate requires a conversation to determine the primary factors that contributed to the youth being absent from foster care and to determine the youth's experiences while absent. This guide is provided to offer potential approaches to identify reasons a youth may have left their placement and potential trauma or risk the youth was exposed to during the AWOLP episode, including being a victim of sex trafficking. This conversation should also identify future placement needs and services. Questions to ask during the conversation about the youth's experiences while absent from care include the following:

  • How did you support yourself while AWOLP (i.e., obtain food, shelter)?
  • Did you earn any money? Did anyone take your money or a portion of your money? Did anyone hold your money for 'safe keeping'?
  • When you were AWOLP, were you living or staying by yourself, with your family, or with others? If others, with whom did you live?
  • Did anyone at the place(s) you lived monitor you or stop you from contacting your family, friends, or others?
  • Did anyone take and keep your identification documents?
  • Did anyone provide you with identification that didn't belong to you?
  • Did anyone ask you to lie about your age or your experiences while AWOLP?
  • If you did borrow or owe money, were you pressured to do anything you didn't want to do to pay it back? Are you currently in debt to someone?
  • Did anyone make you feel scared or unsafe?
  • Did anyone hurt you or threaten to hurt you? Did anyone threaten to hurt your family?
  • Did anyone take a photo of you that you were uncomfortable with?
  • Did you give out your contact information to anyone while AWOLP, including cell phone number or social media information? If so, to whom did you give it?
  • In any situation while AWOLP, did anyone provide you with illegal drugs, substances, or alcohol?

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

This issue is not addressed in the statutes and regulations reviewed.