Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - North Dakota

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Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: Admin. Code § 75-03-36-17; Foster Care Perm. Planning Man. § 624-05-15-50-34

The child-placing agency shall have written policy outlining the critical incident recording and reporting process to the regional supervisor, and parent or custodian of the child, if any, when an incident requires the services of law enforcement, including in the case of a runaway or absent child.

In policy: The foster care case manager, upon determining that a foster child is missing, must make a report immediately, and in no case later than 12 hours, using three specific steps:

  • Immediately report the incident and pertinent information to local law enforcement, including requesting that law enforcement enter the pertinent information into the National Crime Information Center
  • Immediately report the incident and pertinent information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)
  • Immediately report the incident and pertinent information to the regional office

Pertinent information includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Who, what, where, when, and exact time of the incident
  • A description of the child's appearance (i.e., hair color/style, clothing, identifying marks)
  • A photo of the child, if available
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the provider
  • Who last saw the child
  • The date, time, and relevant content from the last case manager visit
  • Whether this is the first time the child has been missing, if not, provide a brief history of prior missing episodes
  • What was going on with the foster child at the time, including the possible primary factors that contributed to the foster child being absent from care
  • Whether there is any suspicion of foul play such as abduction, human trafficking, or sexual exploitation

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: Foster Care Perm. Planning Man. § 624-05-15-50-34

The foster care case manager shall document the actions taken by the case manager and foster care provider to expeditiously locate the missing foster child.

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

Citation: Foster Care Perm. Planning Man. § 624-05-15-50-34

The foster care case manager shall document the primary factors that led to the foster child running away.

Determining the Suitability of Current and Subsequent Placements

Citation: Foster Care Perm. Planning Man. § 624-05-15-50-34

The foster care case manager shall document how case management will respond to the primary factors identified in current and subsequent placements.

Assessing the Child's Experiences While Absent From Care

Citation: Foster Care Perm. Planning Man. § 624-05-15-50-34

Once the foster child is found, notifications to law enforcement, NCMEC, and the regional office should be repeated to inform all involved parties that the foster child is no longer missing or on the run.

The foster care case manager must screen the foster child to determine both the primary factors that led to the foster child running away and the foster child's experiences while absent from foster care. This includes determining if the foster child was a possible human trafficking victim. The North Dakota Runaway & Missing Youth Screening Tool shall be used to help identify if a child missing from foster care was a victim or exploited. The foster care case manager should determine how to best integrate this screening tool upon the missing child's return to foster care. Attention should be paid to the child's ability and willingness to participate in the screening. Every effort should be made to complete the screening before NCMEC is notified that the child has been located.

In the follow-up contact to NCMEC, the case manager will be asked if there was suspicion of or actual human trafficking/sexual exploitation while the child was absent from foster care. If the screening is not completed prior to contacting NCMEC and later it is determined the child was exploited, case management shall notify NCMEC of the findings.

In the event it is determined that the foster child was a victim or sexually exploited, case management will work to ensure needed medical screenings are initiated, services are provided to the child, and all required documentation is completed.

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

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