Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Oklahoma

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Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 10A, § 1-9-123; DHS Pol. for § 340:75-6-48.3

When notified a child or youth has run away or is missing from a foster placement, the Department of Human Services shall, within 24 hours of notification, report such status of the child or youth to local law enforcement, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

The department shall report to law enforcement authorities immediately, and in no case later than 24 hours, after receiving information on a child or youth who has been identified as being a sex trafficking victim.

In policy: When the placement provider learns the child or youth is missing, the provider must file a report with law enforcement and contact the assigned caseworker, providing details of the incident and information reported to law enforcement.

When the caseworker is notified the child or youth is missing, the caseworker must do the following:

  • Immediately file a report with the appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction and request that the child or youth be reported to the NCIC
  • Report the child to NCMEC within 24 hours after receiving notification of the child or youth missing from care

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 10A, § 1-9-123; DHS Pol. for § 340:75-6-48.3

The department shall develop and implement specific protocols to expeditiously locate any child or youth missing from foster care.

In policy: When the caseworker is notified the child or youth is missing, the caseworker must do the following:

  • Immediately notify the district attorney; the child or youth's attorney; and, when applicable, his or her parent or parents
  • Submit the necessary paperwork, as determined by the court of jurisdiction, within 1 business day to request that the court issue a pick-up order indicating the child or youth is a ward of the court
  • Document no later than 1 business day after the episode, the missing-from-care placement episode in the State information system, with an exit reason of AWOL (runaway) when the child or youth has an open removal and is in department custody
  • Contact any relative or collateral, including, but not limited to, a court-appointed special advocate (CASA), guardian ad litem, service provider, counselor, therapist, or school personnel, who may have information about the child or youth's whereabouts
  • Immediately notify the child welfare supervisor and district director to inform them the child or youth is missing from care and to confirm all steps are being taken to locate the child or youth, including reporting the child to NCMEC within 24 hours after receiving notification of the child or youth missing from care

The caseworker must continue to make ongoing efforts to locate the child or youth until he or she is safely returned to an approved placement, including, but not limited to, contacting the appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction, relatives, any collaterals, or other sources that may assist the department in locating and protecting the child or youth. These efforts must take place as often as needed and never less than once per month until the child or youth is located.

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

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 10A, § 1-9-123; DHS Pol. for § 340:75-6-48.3

The department shall develop and implement specific protocols to determine the primary factors that contributed to the child or youth running away or otherwise being absent from foster care.

In policy: When the child or youth is located, the caseworker will assess the reasons the child or youth left the previous placement without department permission by evaluating his or her safety in the previous placement and having a private conversation with the youth about why he or she left, if he or she felt safe there, and where he or she wants to live.

Determining the Suitability of Current and Subsequent Placements

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 10A, § 1-9-123; DHS Pol. for § 340:75-6-48.3

The department shall develop and implement specific protocols to respond, to the extent possible and appropriate, to those factors that contributed to the absence from care or runaway behaviors in the current and subsequent placements of the child or youth.

In policy: When the child or youth is located, the caseworker immediately shall assess the child's safety and determine whether to return him or her to a department-authorized placement, when he or she is in department custody.

The caseworker may consider seeking expedited placement approval with the person with whom the child or youth was found including, but not limited to, any of the following:

  • A parent whose parental rights were terminated, when reinstatement is applicable per title 10A, § 1-4-909 of the Oklahoma Statutes
  • A parent who has not completed the court-ordered individualized service plan, when this is a safe option or safety can be ensured through a safety plan, and the court grants approval for reunification
  • A person who is not a department-authorized placement provider, by seeking expedited placement provider approval for such person

Approval to place the child or youth with the person with whom he or she was found is determined on a case-by-case basis, unless the person has a felony conviction per Admin. Code § 340:75-7-15. The automatic bar to placement for certain criminal history does not apply to a parent.

Assessing the Child's Experiences While Absent From Care

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 10A, § 1-9-123; DHS Pol. for § 340:75-6-48.3

The department shall develop and implement specific protocols to determine what the child or youth experienced while absent from care, including an appropriate screening to determine if the child or youth is a possible victim of sex trafficking.

In policy: Immediately, or no later than 1 business day, after the caseworker has located a child or youth missing from care, the caseworker shall do the following:

  • Notify the following:
    • The appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction with a request that NCIC be notified that the child or youth was located
    • The district attorney, the child or youth's attorney, and, when applicable, the child or youth's parent or parents
    • Child protective services (CPS) programs staff to close the protective service alert and reports to NCMEC, when applicable
  • Submit the necessary paperwork, as determined by the court of jurisdiction, to recall the pick-up order
  • Contact any relative or collateral, including, but not limited to, the court-appointed special advocate, guardian ad litem, service provider, counselor, therapist, or school personnel, who was contacted for information on the whereabouts of the child or youth to report his or her return
  • Immediately report the child or youth to the appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction, in no case later than 24 hours, after receiving information on a child or youth who was identified as a sex trafficking victim

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

Citation: Admin. Code § 340:75-7-52(11); DHS Pol. for § 340:75-6-48.3

When a child is out of the resource home for family reunification purposes, preplacement visits, or is a runaway for up to 7 consecutive days, the resource parent receives a maintenance payment when the child is expected to return to the resource home by the end of 7 business days.

In policy: The following protocol applies when a child or youth missing from care cannot be located:

  • After a 1-year search, when there are no other children in the case, the child or youth is not in permanent Department of Human Services custody, and he or she was not located, the caseworker will submit a progress report to the court documenting the efforts to locate the youth over the 1-year time frame and request dismissal of the dependency case.
  • The caseworker advises each parent of the request for dismissal of the dependency case.
  • When the court does not dismiss the dependency case, the case remains open and the caseworker continues to make efforts every 30 calendar days until the child or youth is located or the case is dismissed. The caseworker requests that the dependency case be dismissed at each subsequent court review.
  • When the dependency case is dismissed, the caseworker will do the following:
    • Notify law enforcement and the child's or youth's parent or parents, when applicable
    • Submit the necessary paperwork, as determined by the court of jurisdiction, to recall the pick-up order
    • Notify CPS and programs staff to close out the protective service alert and reports to NCMEC, the Oklahoma Office of the Inspector General, or both, when applicable
    • Update removal and custody status information in the State information system
    • Close the child welfare case