(The Center Square) – What happens when foster care children go missing in California?
Sometimes, the state follows federal guidelines and reports the child missing. Other times, the state neglects that obligation.
An audit from the Office of the Inspector General of the federal Department of Health and Human Services found that many state agencies, including the California Department of Social Services, are failing to properly report foster care children missing – if they report these children missing at all.
The Inspector General’s office conducted an audit of 100 children who went missing from foster care between July 1, 2018. to December 31, 2020. It used instances where children went missing for more than two calendar days when conducting the audit.
The random sampling identified five instances in California of missing foster care children during this stretch. The state’s results were mixed. In two of the five instances, the state followed proper federal guidelines and reported the children missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. However, in three of the five cases, the state never reported the children missing.
Federal law requires that state agencies report children missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children within 24 hours of receiving information that a child is missing.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children manages the country’s AMBER Alert system. It is a child abduction emergency alert system that uses the internet, radio, television and cell phones to alert people of child abductions in hopes that the public will alert the authorities if they see the missing child.
A spokesperson for the California Department of Social Services could not be reached for comment on Monday.