Responding to Youth Missing From Foster Care - Wisconsin

Date:

Protocols for Reporting Children Missing From Care to Law Enforcement

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.78(2m); DCF Div. of Safety & Perm. Ongoing Ser. Stds.

If an agency that has responsibility for the placement, care, or supervision of a child determines that a child is missing, the agency shall do all the following:

  • Within 8 hours after making that determination, report that determination to a local law enforcement agency for entry of that information into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) databases
  • Within 24 hours after making that determination, report that determination to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)
  • Share information about a missing child with law enforcement agencies, NCMEC, and other agencies that are involved in efforts to locate the missing child

In policy: This standard applies to all cases in which a youth is living in an out-of-home care setting and the whereabouts of the youth are either unknown or the youth does not have permission to be away from the out-of-home care setting. This policy applies beginning at the point a youth is removed from his or her home and the Department of Children and Families or a county agency has placement and care responsibility.

Once the agency has determined that a youth is missing from out-of-home care, the agency must do the following:

  • Ensure that law enforcement has been notified that a youth is missing, including whether the youth is at-risk or has been a victim of sex trafficking
  • Within 24 hours, notify NCMEC
  • Inform NCMEC if the youth is at risk or has been a victim of sex trafficking

The following information shall be provided to NCMEC in the missing report:

  • The youth's first and last name and date of birth
  • The youth's race, gender, height and weight, and eye and hair color
  • The date and time the youth was last seen
  • The person who reported the youth missing to the agency
  • The city, country, and State the youth is missing from
  • The date of the missing report was made to law enforcement
  • The law enforcement agency the report was made to
  • A description of the circumstances surrounding the missing episode
  • Indicators or facts that the youth was being groomed, recruited, or victimized through sex trafficking
  • Special needs of the youth, such as medical conditions, allergies, cognitive/developmental delays, behavioral/emotional needs, history with running, history with or at-risk of drug and/or alcohol use, suicide risk, gang involvement, etc.
  • Contact information for the agency with placement and care responsibility, including the contact person's name, phone number, email address, and agency name and address

Optional information includes the following:

  • The street address, zip code, and county the youth is missing from
  • A current photograph of the youth
  • Vehicle information (i.e., make, model, year, color, license plate) associated with the youth's missing episode
  • Any companion(s)/abductor(s) (i.e., name, sex, race, relationship to youth, physical appearance, known address) who may be accompanying the youth
  • The youth's nickname(s)/alias(es)
  • The youth's medication(s)
  • Information about the youth's parents or guardian
  • The youth's cell phone number and email address
  • Contact information for the law enforcement agency that received the missing report
  • The law enforcement case number
  • Confirmation of whether the missing report also was made to the NCIC

Protocols for Locating Children Missing From Care

Citation: DCF Div. of Safety & Perm. Ongoing Ser. Stds.

Once the agency has determined that a youth is missing from out-of-home care, the agency must do the following:

  • Make efforts immediately to inform the following:
    • The parent/caregiver, legal custodian, and guardian
    • The out-of-home care provider, if the youth was not with the provider when he or she went missing
    • The Indian child's Tribe, if applicable
    • The appropriate Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) or Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ) contact, if a youth is placed in Wisconsin through the ICPC or ICJ
  • Conduct and continue efforts to find the youth until the youth no longer meets the definition of missing in care
  • Continue to do permanency planning activities, according to §§ 48.38 and 938.38 of the statutes
  • Manage bed holds and provider payments

An agency may also want to inform the youth's school, mental health providers, legal representative, and other service providers working with the youth and family to coordinate efforts to locate the youth.

Agencies have the ability to determine the continued efforts to search, as this will vary depending on the circumstances of the missing episode, the individual youth, and case plan. An agency should consider the following activities in searching for a youth who has been determined missing:

  • Contact the youth's friends, relatives, or significant others for possible information about his or her whereabouts
  • Contact the youth's school, if school is in session
  • If the youth has been missing before, contact any person the youth was found with or in the location the youth was located previously
  • Determine whether any of the youth's friends or significant others also are missing and, if so, whether their families or friends have additional information
  • Determine whether the youth or anyone taking the youth left any written information that may indicate where the youth has gone or been taken

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

Citation: DCF Div. of Safety & Perm. Ongoing Ser. Stds.

When a youth is no longer missing from out-of-home care, the agency with placement and care responsibility shall interview the youth about the missing episode to determine the primary factors that contributed to the youth's missing episode and follow-up on any safety or well-being concerns raised by the youth or his or her caregiver(s). The issues to be determined include the following:

  • Determine whether the youth was missing as the result of a perpetrator or exploiter influence, such as being forced or coerced to run away
  • Determine the child's or juvenile's motivation for running away, such as either of the following:
    • Whether the youth was running to something, such as peers, birth parent(s), or other family members
    • Whether the youth was running from something, such as an unsafe environment or unsafe person

Determining the Suitability of Current and Subsequent Placements

Citation: DCF Div. of Safety & Perm. Ongoing Ser. Stds.

Once the agency has determined the youth has been found and is again under the care and supervision of the agency, the agency must do the following:

  • Revise the family interaction plan to consider any new safety concerns
  • Discuss planning for the prevention of future missing-in-care episodes with the youth and family team to ensure youth safety, community safety, permanency, and well-being
  • Describe the plan for the prevention of future missing episodes

This plan should be discussed with the youth; the youth's birth parent(s)/legal guardian; the out-of-home care provider; the youth's treatment team; the youth's Tribe, if applicable; and any other individual(s) who would be taking a role in the prevention of future missing episodes.

Assessing the Child's Experiences While Absent From Care

Citation: DCF Div. of Safety & Perm. Ongoing Ser. Stds.

Once the agency has determined the youth has been found and is again under the care and supervision of the agency, the agency must do the following:

  • Make efforts immediately to inform the following:
    • The parent/caregiver, legal custodian, and guardian
    • The out-of-home care provider
    • The Indian child's Tribe, if applicable
    • The appropriate ICPC or ICJ contact, if applicable
  • Verify that law enforcement has been notified of the youth's return, if the youth was listed as a missing person
  • Within 24 hours, notify NCEMC of the youth's return to out-of-home care
  • Manage bed holds and provider payments
  • Inform the court and court officials, as specified in interagency policies or agreements
  • Obtain any appropriate court restrictions to maintain the youth safely in out-of-home care
  • Seek any necessary follow-up medical care or counseling for the youth
  • Assist the youth in obtaining any educational materials necessary to catch the youth up from the time he or she was considered missing, if school was missed

Agencies must evaluate the child's or juvenile's need for treatment and services within 1 business day following an episode of missing from care by interviewing the youth about the missing episode to determine the primary factors that contributed to the youth's going missing. As part of this interview, the agency shall assess the youth to determine if the youth was a possible sex trafficking victim during the missing episode, seek any necessary medical attention, and discuss planning for the prevention of future missing-in-care episodes with the youth and family team to ensure the safety of the youth and community, permanency, and well-being.

When the youth is no longer missing, an assessment shall be made to address the following:

  • Determine if the missing episode was the result of the youth running away
  • If the missing episode was due to the youth running away, assess the following:
    • Frequency of running
    • Consistency of destination
    • Safety of destination
    • Involvement in illegal activities
    • Likelihood to return on their own
    • Involvement with others
    • Realistic expectations
  • Determine if the youth was a victim of any of the following during the missing episode:
    • Sex trafficking
    • Sexual assault
    • Physical abuse
    • Emotional abuse
    • Medical trauma
    • Alcohol and other drug abuse
    • Injuries

Timeframes for Closing a Child's Placement After Running Away

Citation: DCF Div. of Safety & Perm. Ongoing Ser. Stds.

When a youth is considered missing from out-of-home care, the case shall not be closed just because the youth is missing from care. Any decision to close a case with an open court order for a youth who has not yet reached age 18, or who has reached age 18 with an open court order, should be done in consultation with the agency's legal counsel.