Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Nevada

Date: May 2020

Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: Child Welf. Pol. Man. MTL # 0210

In policy: Licensed foster homes and caregivers are required to verbally notify the child welfare agency and law enforcement immediately (followed by written notice as soon as practicable but no later than the business day immediately following the event) upon determination that a child is missing, has runaway, is suspected to have been abducted, or is the victim of sexual exploitation. A child is determined to be missing when the location of the child is unknown and there has been no contact with the child for 3 hours, despite multiple attempts to make contact (in person, electronic, social media, etc.).

Verbal notification to the agency and law enforcement must occur immediately when any of the following apply:

  • The child is age 5 or younger.
  • The child has a cognitive delay.
  • The child is vulnerable due to medical needs.
  • The child has runaway or abduction is suspected.

When reporting a missing child, the foster parent should speak directly to an agency caseworker, intake worker, or on-call worker. The foster parent should be instructed to file a police report with their local law enforcement agency, obtain the law enforcement report number, and provide it to the caseworker. If the foster parent is unable to file a report, the caseworker must ensure a report is made with the local law enforcement agency.

The caseworker must make a report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as soon as practicable but no later than 24 hours of becoming aware that the child is missing and/or exploited. The caseworker will provide law enforcement and/or NCMEC with all requested pertinent information about the child, some of which might include the following:

  • The child's full name, including known aliases and nicknames
  • A current photo of the child
  • For exploited children, the date, time, and location where the crime was committed
  • For missing children, the following information:
    • The date, time, and location where child was last seen, if known
    • The names of the persons who saw the child last, if known
    • Any pertinent medical history, conditions such as developmental disability, or if they are medically fragile

The caseworker also shall do the following:

  • Identify and secure any computers and wireless devices used by the child and provide law enforcement access to these items
  • Ask law enforcement to look for clues in any chat and social networking websites the child has visited
  • Provide law enforcement any known information about the child's social networking
  • Compile descriptive information about the child, including items and information such as the following:
    • A recent photo of the child
    • A description of the clothing worn at the time the child was last seen
    • Cell and other phone numbers
    • Date of birth, hair and eye color, height, weight, complexion
    • Identifiers such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, braces, body piercings, tattoos, and other unique physical attributes
    • Any general health and medical conditions the child may have

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: Child Welf. Pol. Man. MTL # 0210

child involved with or in the custody of the agency is missing, abducted, or runaway.

The child welfare caseworker must ensure notification to the birth parent or legal guardian within 24 hours. If unable to reach the birth parent or legal guardian, the caseworker must make recurring efforts to notify the parents.

The caseworker also must do the following:

  • Notify the supervisor via text message, telephone, or email when notification to law enforcement has been made according to agency policy and procedure
  • Notify the child's service providers that the child is missing and/or is a victim of exploitation no later than 2 business days after becoming aware of the issue

Service providers may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The child's legal representative (guardian ad litem, court-appointed special advocate, or attorney)
  • The child's therapist
  • The child's probation or parole officer
  • The child's independent-living service provider/case manager

After initial contacts, the child welfare caseworker must make reasonable efforts to locate the child at least every 30 calendar days until the child is located or the case is closed. Efforts should include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Continue to seek information from the parents, relatives, adult mentors, child's attorney, friends, and others who may have information about the child's whereabouts while the child is in missing or on runaway status
  • Ask the other children in the home if they have heard from or know where the child may be
  • Check past locations the child has been known to frequent or where they were previously found
  • Check all the child's contacts (i.e., local family members, friends, teachers, significant other) to ask if they have heard from the child and if they know of his/her whereabouts
  • If at any time new information is obtained on the child's location, immediately contact all law enforcement agencies and other agencies notified that the child was missing
  • Check social media of the youth, friends, and family
  • Continue to call or text youth directly on their cell phone

Caseworkers must document their actions of continued efforts to locate the child with a monthly case note until the child has been located.

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

Citation: Child Welf. Pol. Man. MTL # 0210

Upon a child's return to care, the child welfare caseworker must interview the child utilizing the returning child debriefing tool. The returning child debriefing tool asks questions to help identify why the youth ran away; what they did while they were gone; reasons that contributed to their absence; if they have any immediate safety, medical, or emotional needs upon return; and if there is anything that could have been done to prevent them from leaving.

Guidelines for completing the tool include the following:

  • Within 24 hours of the child's return, a trusted adult must complete an interview with the child utilizing the tool to initiate strategies to prevent the youth from leaving and make referrals for appropriate services.
  • The tool is required to be completed for the first runaway episode if a child has been missing for 24 hours or longer.
  • After subsequent runaway episodes, the caseworker must review the tool to consider changes and possible referrals to support runaway prevention.
  • At the next supervision of the case, the caseworker must review the tool and determine if additional supports are needed.

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: Child Welf. Pol. Man. MTL # 0210

Upon a child's return to care, the child welfare caseworker must ensure that all the following steps are completed:

  • Welcome the child back and ensure the child knows and is aware of the concerns regarding his/her safety and well-being by friends, family, and others who have significant relations with the child
  • Assess and meet the child's immediate physical and health needs
  • Notify the supervisor, child's parents, legal guardian (if parental rights have not been terminated), parole or probation officer (if child is on parole or probation), and any other agencies and people who were contacted that the child has been located
  • Cancel reports to law enforcement and NCMEC
  • Inform local law enforcement as soon as reasonably practicable but no later than 24 hours of becoming aware that the child has been located
  • Notify NCMEC and file a recovery report within 48 hours of becoming aware that the child has been located
  • If applicable, notify the Attorney General's Office, Missing Children's Unit
  • Identify services the child may need

If the child was missing, returns from running away or being absconded, or is suspected of being a victim of exploitation, a screening for sexual exploitation must be completed within 24 hours of the child's return. This screening is not required if the child has previously been identified as a victim of exploitation through the use of the Nevada Rapid Indicator Tool (NRIT). The NRIT assesses whether any of the following applies to the child:

  • The child is a confirmed victim of commercial sexual exploitation.
  • The child is at high risk of commercial exploitation.
  • No indicators apply to this youth at this time.

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

Citation: Child Welf. Pol. Man. MTL # 0210

If a child turns age 18, has not elected to remain on court jurisdiction, and is on missing/runaway status, case closure will be reviewed and recommendations made pursuant to agency procedure.

If the case is closed, the caseworker must follow agency procedure on case closure. In addition, the caseworker must notify the following of case closure:

  • All parties to the case
  • The child's service providers, including, but not limited to, the therapist, independent-living specialist, and parole or probation officers