Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Montana

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Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: CFSD Pol. Man. § 408-6

From the policy manual: When the Centralized Intake (CI) hotline receives a report that a child in foster care is missing, CI will contact law enforcement and make a runaway youth report or verify that a report has been made.

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: CFSD Pol. Man. § 408-6

Whenever a Montana foster youth is missing or has runaway, the Child and Family Service Division (CFSD) must implement protocols to locate children missing from foster care.

For purposes of this policy, 'foster youth' is defined as youth in foster care placement, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Paid or unpaid kinship, foster care, congregate care, or a residential treatment facility
  • Youth on a trial home visit
  • Youth in placement per a protection plan under the 30-day voluntary placement statute
  • Youth for whom CFSD has a diversion court agreement with birth family and the youth is remaining in the home
  • Youth for whom CFSD has court-ordered care and control, but the youth continues to reside in their birth parent's home

The procedure for locating youth missing from foster care include the following actions:

  • CFSD staff, congregate care or residential treatment facility staff, or foster parents will call the CI hotline to report missing or runaway foster youth.
  • CI will collect information from the reporter that is listed on the on 'Missing or Runaway Foster Youth Referral Form' to collect the required information.
  • CI will contact law enforcement and make a runaway youth report or verify a report has been made.
  • CI also will document the activity in the information system.

Tribal title IV-E social services agencies also will issue reports of missing or runaway foster youth to CI, as this is a requirement under the title IV-E contracts. CI will follow the same procedures that apply to other reports of missing children when referrals of missing or runaway foster youth are received from communities located on any of Montana's Indian Reservations. Within 1 working day, the Tribal social services staff assigned to the missing or runaway foster youth's case will be expected to provide additional information not available when the CI referral was issued.

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

Citation: CFSD Pol. Man. § 408-6

Whenever a Montana foster youth is missing or has runaway, CFSD must implement protocols to determine the factors that lead to the child's being absent from foster care.

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: CFSD Pol. Man. § 408-6

Once the foster youth is located, CFSD and Tribal title IV-E social services agencies will be responsible for the following:

  • Determining the factors that led to the foster youth being absent from foster care and to the extent possible address those factors in subsequent placements
  • Determining the foster youth's experiences while absent from care, including whether the child is a sex trafficking victim
  • Reporting related information as required by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services
  • Immediately reporting to local law enforcement any time it has been determined a youth has been sex trafficked

Once the youth is located, CFSD must notify law enforcement that the youth has been located and remove any public service announcements that have been issued.

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

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