Children are in foster care because they, or their sibling(s), have experienced abuse and/or neglect. Having experienced trauma in their lives, these young children are particularly vulnerable to being exploited by outside persons. When a child is in CPS conservatorship and runs away, it is extremely important that the agency put every effort to quickly locate the child before they are exploited.
National data underscores the need to find runaway children quickly:
- Children are being approached for sex trafficking within 48 hours of running away
- Many of the children approached are in the age range of 12 to 16
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children had 18,500 runaways reported to them in2016. One in six were deemed likely victims of sex trafficking. Of those likely victims, 86% were in the care of social services or the foster care system when they ran.In 2014, President Obama signed into law the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, Public Law (P.L. 113-183). This law amends the title IV-E foster care program to require child welfare agencies such as DFPS to:
- Develop and implement specific protocols for expeditiously locating any child missing from foster care;
- Determine the primary factors that contributed to the child’s running away or otherwise being absent from care, and to the extent possible and appropriate, respond to those factors in current and subsequent placements;
- Determine the child’s experiences while absent from care, including screening the child to determine if the child is a possible sex trafficking victim;
- Report such related information as required by Health and Human Services; and
- No later than 24 hours after receiving information on missing or abducted children or youth, providenecessary information to law enforcement authorities for entry into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and provide necessary information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.