Federal regulators last week said Missouri’s foster care agency failed to adequately protect or locate children who went missing from foster care or properly provide medical or mental health treatment when located.
The report, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, said in the 59 cases of missing children it reviewed, 49 were identified as being at a higher risk of potentially going missing. But only seven of those children received services to reduce that risk.
“The Missouri foster care agency… missed opportunities to identify and mitigate children’s risk for going missing from foster care,” the report said. “Additionally, there is no evidence that once children went missing, Missouri complied with state and federal requirements or effectively used all resources available to assist in locating the children.”
Nearly half of the cases reviewed (27 out of 59) had no evidence that case managers reported them as missing.
Missouri has policies in place that instruct case managers in how to aid and locate missing children, but regulators found they do not often follow those procedures. Nearly half of the cases reviewed (27 out of 59) had no evidence that case managers reported them as missing.
The Children’s Division has developed “human trafficking policy, training, practice alert and assessment tools while the report was still being compiled,” acting director Jennifer Tidball said in a letter. “It has also expanded its partnership with various organizations to help children who have been trafficked or at a greater risk of human trafficking.”
The division also has implemented a checklist of procedures for case managers for when a child is missing and located and is planning to change how children are identified, such as to better designate if a child is missing or in an unapproved placement.
“It’s clear from these findings our state’s efforts to prevent this from happening and to respond are insufficient,” said Jessica Seitz, executive director of Missouri KidsFirst. “I hope this report serves as a wake-up call, and I’m confident we can come together on solutions to keep kids safe.”