Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Mississippi

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Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: Code of Rules § 18-006-104, Part VII; DFCS Policy § D(VII)(17)(c)

When the caseworker receives a report that a youth in care has runaway or is missing, the worker must complete following actions:

  • Notify the youth court and law enforcement agency immediately in person of missing/runaway youth and sign a runaway petition (if the child ran away) within 1 working day
  • Follow up with law enforcement within 1 working day and one time per week until the child has been located

In policy: In addition to the actions described above, the worker must notify the Division of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) State Office immediately of the runaway so that the child's status may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The notification must include all the following information that is available:

  • Pictures and videos of the child
  • The circumstances of the disappearance and description of clothing last worn
  • A summary of child's family history, including names of parents
  • The child's date of birth, health status/concerns, complexion, hair color, eye color, height, weight, and identifying characteristics (e.g., scars, tattoos, or piercings)
  • The child's cellular phone number(s)
  • The child's friends and hangouts
  • The child's social media use and accounts
  • The name and phone number of local law enforcement agency involved
  • The DFCS worker's agency contact numbers

If the child is under age 18, the DFCS State Office will report the runaway to NCMEC. If the child is age 18 or older, the DFCS State Office will assist local law enforcement with reporting the runaway to NCMEC.

NCMEC will generate posters and work with local law enforcement to locate the child.

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: Code of Rules § 18-006-104, Part VII

When the caseworker receives a report that a youth in care has runaway or is missing, the worker must complete following actions:

  • Staff the incident with the regional director immediately upon receipt of information regarding the status of the child
  • Complete the required notifications to law enforcement, the youth court, and NCMEC
  • Notify the child's birth parent(s) or guardian
  • Follow up with the resource parent/provider within 24 hours
  • If there are allegations of maltreatment, enter a report in the information system within 24 hours of notification

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

Citation: DFCS Policy § D(VII)(17)(c)

When the child is located or returns, the worker must interview the child to assess the reasons why the child was missing or ran away from care. Questions that may be asked, as appropriate, include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • What caused you to leave or runaway?
  • Did anyone encourage you to leave?
  • Did you leave with someone? Who?

Determining the Suitability of Current and Subsequent Placements

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

Assessing the Child's Experiences While Absent From Care

Citation: DFCS Policy § D(VII)(17)(c)

When the child is located or returns, the worker will complete the following actions:

  • Notify the youth court immediately in person or by phone that the child has been located
  • Notify law enforcement immediately in person or by phone that the child has been located
  • Notify the DFCS State Office immediately via email so that the child's status may be reported to NCMEC
  • Notify the child's birth parent(s)/guardian and placement providers as soon as possible; attempts to notify shall continue until contact has been made
  • Take an updated photograph of the child and include any new physical attributes (e.g., hairstyles, tattoos, piercings)

The worker will interview the child to assess their experiences while they were missing/runaway from care. Questions that may be asked, as appropriate, include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Where did you go?
  • What is the first thing you did after you left?
  • What types of things have you been doing while you were gone?
  • Did you leave with someone? Who?
  • Did anything happen to make you feel uncomfortable or that hurt you?

The DFCS worker shall staff with the area social work supervisor to make appropriate referrals for placement and to medical, mental health providers, and law enforcement, as needed. The worker shall document in a narrative and in the case file all information gathered regarding the child during their time missing/runaway from care.

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

Citation: Code of Rules § 18-006-104, Part VIII

Board payments will not be paid to the placement resource when a child is placed on runaway status.