Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Oregon

Date:

Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: Admin. Rules § 413-080-0053; CW Proc. Man. Ch. 4, § 18

When a caseworker receives information that a child or young adult in substitute care is missing, the caseworker must ensure law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) are notified immediately and in no case later than 24 hours after receiving information on the missing child or young adult.

In policy: The following activities should be completed when the caseworker is informed that a child or youth is missing:

  • Report the situation to law enforcement agency (LEA) immediately and in all cases within 24 hours
  • Document the date and time of the report, the report number, and the name of the officer taking the report
  • Be prepared to provide a recent photo of the youth, if one is available
  • Provide the following additional information:
    • A physical description, including tattoos and piercings, what the youth was wearing when seen last, and a description of personality traits
    • Information about the youth's routine, friends, activities, social media presence, etc., including any recent changes in his or her life
  • After the report to the LEA has been made, report to NCMEC within 24 hours

While timelines vary on when to complete the above activities, efforts to locate the child/young adult must be commenced immediately.

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: Admin. Rules § 413-080-0053; CW Proc. Man. Ch. 4, § 18

When a caseworker receives information that a youth in substitute care is missing, the caseworker must do the following:

  • Make immediate efforts to locate the youth
  • As soon as practicable, ensure the court and legal parties to the case are notified, unless notification may jeopardize the safety of the youth or interfere with an investigation

In policy: In addition to the required reports to LEA and NCMEC, the caseworker must ensure the following individuals or entities are notified on the same working day the information is received:

  • The youth's parents (unless their parental rights have been terminated) and caregivers
  • The court
  • The attorney for the youth
  • Attorneys for the parents
  • The district attorney
  • The court-appointed special advocated (CASA)
  • The youth's Tribe, if applicable

There are many ways to search for a missing youth, including, but not limited to, physically looking, using the internet, using the phone, and asking others to help locate. These efforts may include the following:

  • Searching the last place he or she was seen
  • Going to the homes of his or her friends
  • Checking regular hang outs and any place he or she frequents and leaving messages at these places
  • Going to emergency shelter€™s homeless youth programs
  • Checking with juvenile detention if it is a child who is missing and jails if it is a young adult
  • Checking with hospitals
  • If he or she is a victim of sex trafficking or at risk of being a victim of sex trafficking, checking clubs
  • Checking Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites
  • If the missing youth is a victim of sex trafficking or at risk of being a victim of sex trafficking, checking known escort sites, such as Backpage, and ads
  • Googling the youth's phone number, in case the number is in an ad
  • Calling the youth's phone number or having someone he or she trusts call from their phone
  • Using the phone's GPS system to try and determine a location
  • Contacting individuals close to the youth

Looking for the youth includes reaching out and maintaining contact with those who know him or her well. These people may include the following:

  • Relatives, including parents and siblings
  • Neighbors and the landlord of his or her last known address
  • Close friends and classmates, including any known boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Teachers, counselors, and other school personnel from the school he or she last attended or other schools the youth attended, if there is knowledge that he or she had a close relationship with persons at that school
  • Employers and coworkers where he or she was employed
  • Other department staff, such as former caseworkers
  • Mental health providers
  • Tribal staff
  • The youth's attorney, CASA, probation or parole officer, advocate, or case manager
  • Runaway and homeless programs

The caseworker must maintain regular contact with the individuals close to the youth. Updates to and from these individuals are important and may identify the location of the youth. The caseworker also should maintain regular contact with the LEA and the NCMEC case managers to provide any new information on the youth's possible whereabouts and to receive updates on efforts to locate him or her.

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

Citation: Admin. Rules § 413-080-0053; CW Proc. Man. Ch. 4, § 18

When a child or young adult missing from substitute care is located, the caseworker must determine and, to the extent possible, address the primary factors that contributed to the missing status of the child or young adult.

In policy: When the caseworker understands the primary factors contributing the youth being missing, the caseworker must try to address those factors, if at all possible. Even if the youth has a different caregiver when he or she returns, the circumstances that led to the youth being missing may be addressed in the new environment.

Determining the Suitability of Current and Subsequent Placements

Citation: CW Proc. Man. Ch. 4, § 18

In determining whether to return a youth to the last placement he or she was in, the worker should gather information from the youth and the caregiver separately about why the youth went missing. If the reasons are related to the placement itself, the caseworker must staff the placement decision with a supervisor.

If the youth has a history of running away or indicates that he or she will not accept any placement selected by the department, the worker should discuss with the youth where he or she wants to live or what type of placement he or she is willing to accept. Such placements may include the following:

  • A particular relative with whom the youth is comfortable. The requirements for relative placement must be met to place him or her with that relative.
  • A former caregiver or another adult with whom the youth has formed a relationship and with whom the he or she expresses a desire to be placed. Again, all certification requirements must be met to place him or her with that adult.
  • Independent-living services, while not a placement, has associated housing programs. If the youth is considering independent-living services, the caseworker will determine if he or she is eligible and appropriate for these services.
  • Reunification with the youth's parent or parents. If he or she expresses a desire to live with his or her parent, the caseworker should determine if the factors preventing a reunification in the past are still a factor and, if not, follow requirements for pursuing a possible reunification.

By attempting to limit trauma to the youth and increase his or her connections with supportive people, he or she will be more likely to move forward in making progress toward a stable adulthood.

Assessing the Child's Experiences While Absent From Care

Citation: Admin. Rules § 413-080-0053; CW Proc. Man. Ch. 4, § 18

When a youth missing from substitute care is located, the caseworker must do the following:

  • Determine the youth's experiences while missing
  • Determine if the youth is a sex trafficking victim or at risk of being a sex trafficking victim
  • Ensure the court and legal parties to the case are notified the youth has been located

In policy: When the youth is located, the caseworker must ensure this information is shared within 24 hours with those who were informed that he or she was missing. At a minimum, the notifications must include the following:

  • Parents or caregivers
  • Law enforcement and NCMEC
  • The court (including all parties)
  • The Tribe

The caseworker should make face-to-face contact with the youth within 3 business days after the youth has been located to determine the following:

  • The primary factors that contributed to the missing status of the youth and, to the extent possible, address them
  • The youth's experiences while missing
  • If the youth is a sex trafficking victim or at risk of being a sex trafficking victim

This information must be gathered from the youth and may be gathered from others. The caregiver at the time the youth went missing is likely to have a critical perspective, and friends of the youth likely have relevant information. The information gathered also should include the following:

  • Contact information for the youth
  • If there are adults the youth trusts and would return to or speak to
  • What the youth is looking for in a placement or at home (using motivational interviewing, if possible)

The caseworker must ensure information is gathered in a developmentally appropriate manner, considering the following:

  • The age and developmental stage of the youth
  • The mental and physical health of the youth
  • The best person to gather information
  • Ways to continue to gather information by being in contact more than usual (daily, weekly, etc.)

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

Citation: CW Proc. Man. Ch. 4, § 18

When a youth is abducted or has run away, the Department of Human Services may authorize substitute care payments to the substitute caregiver for up to 7 days following the date the youth was determined to be missing when the following two criteria are met:

  • The plan is for the youth to return to the same substitute care placement.
  • No other substitute caregiver is receiving a maintenance payment for the youth.

Permanency and administrative hearings will continue as scheduled when a youth is missing, as follows:

  • Regularly scheduled permanency hearings and Citizens' Review Board (CRB) hearings will continue.
  • Reports to the court and CRB will include documentation on the agency€™s efforts to locate the youth.
  • The youth's legal parents will continue to receive notification of the hearings and reviews.