Children Missing from Out-of-Home Care

Resources from the T/TA Network & Children’s Bureau


  • Without a Trace? Children Who Are Missing From Care
    The Spring 2007 issue of NRCPFC’s bi-annual newsletter, Permanency Planning Today, focused on Cross-System Collaboration. This article provides an overview of the topic of children missing from care and highlights procedures utilized in Washington State. (2007)

Teleconferences, Webinars, and Webcasts

  • The Problem of Youth who Run from Residential Care
    This NRCPFC teleconference focused on the nature and scope of the problem of youth who run away from residential care. The teleconference included a discussion of best practice guidelines. Policy and procedural recommendations were highlighted. (2010)

Research & Reports

  • Circumstances and Suggestions of Youth Who Run from Out-of-home Care
    This study in the Michigan Child Welfare Law Journal examined the preceding circumstances of youth that ran from out-of-home care. Youth offered suggestions for preventing future running episodes. To prevent running, youth recommended caring adults, helping others, active roles in case planning, knowledge of resources, and maintaining family connections. (Fall 2007)
  • School Engagement and Youth Who Run Away from Care: The Need for Cross-System Collaboration
    In an effort to better understand individual and system factors that may impact the educational experiences and choices of youth in care, this Chapin Hall report presents the voices of a group of youth who ran away from their foster placements and the perspectives of adults who care for or work with these youth. Findings reveal missed opportunities in helping support the educational aspirations of a vulnerable group of youth--missed opportunities for foster parents and professionals, for the child welfare and education systems, and most importantly for the youth themselves. (2007)
  • Youth Who Run Away from Substitute Care
    This Chapin Hall report focuses on trends in runaway behavior over time, the characteristics of runaways, and their self-reported reasons for running. It shows that the likelihood that an individual youth would run away increased significantly starting in the late 1990s, doubling by 2003 largely as a result of an increase in chronic runaway behavior. A variety of factors were found to be associated with the likelihood that youth would run including: youth age, race, gender, mental illness, substance abuse, and developmental disability; placement instability; type of out-of-home placement; and the presence of a youth's sibling in the home. The report identifies three common themes related to the running experiences of youth: the role of family in many youth's decision to run, the role of the struggle for autonomy and normalcy, and the crucial role of caseworkers, caregivers, and other professionals. (2005)
  • Youth Who Run Away from Out of Home Care: Issue Brief
    In this Issue Brief, findings of the larger report (see above) are summarized and recommendations are presented for changes in child welfare practice that might reduce the likelihood that youth will run away from out-of-home care. (2005)
  • Youth Who Chronically AWOL from Foster Care: Why They Run, Where They Go, and What Can Be Done
    At the request of New York City's Administration for Children's Services (ACS), the Vera Institute of Justice conducted a study of youth who repeatedly run from group care. Prior Vera research showed that most AWOLs from foster care in New York City are concentrated among a small group of adolescents who run more than once, and that most AWOLs are from congregate care settings. This study sought to determine what causes youth in foster care to go AWOL repeatedly and the level of risk these youth experienced. The study also aimed to provide information that child welfare staff and managers might use to develop new strategies to reduce AWOL activity. (2004)


  • When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide
    This guide, published by OJJDP (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention), was written by parents who have experienced the trauma of a missing child and want to help other parents facing the same overpowering loss. The guide provides first-hand knowledge and sound advice about what to do when your child is missing, whom to contact, and how to best help law enforcement. (2010)

Cuando su niño está desaparecido: Una guía de supervivencia familiaris the Spanish-language translation of this guide. (2011)

  • The Crime of Family Abduction: A Child’s and Parent’s Perspective
    This resource, published by OJJDP (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention), was authored by survivors of family abduction. This publication provides the searching family, law enforcement, and mental health professionals with strategies to build a comprehensive, child-centered approach to recovery and healing. (2010)

El delito del secuestro familiar: La perspectiva de hijos y padres is the Spanish-language translation of this publication. (2010)

  • Children Missing from Care: How Should Agencies Respond?
    States are addressing the issue of runaway children and other children missing from child welfare custody in a variety of creative ways, according to this article in Children's Voice, from the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). The article discusses the increasing focus on missing children over the last few years and notes how States have responded. (Oct/Nov 2005)
  • Best Practice Guidelines: Children Missing from Care
    This publication from the Child Welfare League of America provides direction to child placement agencies responsible for children in out-of-home care on the issue of children who go missing from care. It discusses prevention, response, and resolution of missing-from-care episodes, and was prepared in conjunction with guidelines for law enforcement agencies on children missing from care. It is available for purchase at the link above. (2005)
  • Children Missing From Care: An Issue Brief
    Prepared by the Child Welfare League of America as part of its Children Missing From Care Project, this issue brief identifies and analyzes the current state of knowledge regarding children missing from care, causative factors, and prospective remedies. It includes relevant research, selected insights by key informants, and the identification of promising practices. It also addresses definitional issues and recommended practice and policy strategies relevant to the prevention, response, recovery, and return of children missing from care. Also at this link: Proceedings of an Expert Panel meeting convened by CWLA on this subject in March, 2004. (2004)

Resources for Law Enforcement

  • The Problem of Juvenile Runaways
    This guide, available on the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing website, begins by describing the problem of juvenile runaways and reviewing risk factors. It then identifies a series of questions to help police analyze the local juvenile runaway problem. Finally, it reviews responses to the problem and what is known about them from evaluative research and police practice. (2006)
  • Children Missing From Care: The Law-Enforcement Response
    Published by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, this resource is intended to assist in strengthening collaboration between law-enforcement agencies and child-welfare authorities in hopes of improving the safety and well-being of children in out-of-home care. (2005)

Resources from the States

  • Louisiana: What to Do if Your Child is Missing
    The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) and Louisiana Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children (LACMEC) provide helpful information on what to do if your child is missing
  • Michigan:
    • Child Locator Website
      The Michigan Department of Human Services activated a Web site in 2002 that contains information about, and when available, pictures of Michigan children who are absent without legal permission from their legal placements. Missing children listed on this Web site have been reported to law enforcement as runaways or potential abductions.
  • New York: Accounting for and Contacting Children in Foster Care
    This report discusses the outcomes of an audit of the New York City Administration for Children's Services’ accountability for foster children in their care, and the Office For Children and Family Services’ (OCFS) oversight of its foster care contacts.  The objectives of the performance audit were to determine: whether ACS could physically locate the foster children in its custody, including children newly entered into care; whether the voluntary agencies under contract with ACS provided foster children with the required number of caseworker contacts; whether ACS made diligent efforts to find children reported as AWOL; and whether OCFS adequately oversees ACS, and the extent to which the New York City foster care program complies with Title 18 and relevant ACS guidelines. Recommendations are discussed. (June 2006)
  • Washington: Practice and Procedures Guide – Children Missing from Care
    The Washington State Children‘s Administration Practices and Procedures Guide includes a section on children missing from care (Section 2580) that addresses the following: definitions,  reporting children missing from care, searching for children missing from care, return of children missing from care, and documenting children missing from care.

Additional Teleconferences, Webinars, and Webcasts

  • MECP Distance Learning Center Webinars
    The Missing and Exploited Children’s Program (MECP), supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, provides local, state and tribal law enforcement, nonprofit organizations, and other juvenile justice practitioners with training and technical assistance relating to missing and exploited children’s issues.  The MECP’s webinar and training events, including the following pertaining to missing children, are accessible through their Distance Learning Center:
    • Missing Children with Special Needs (December 2012)
    • Missing to Trafficking: Connections Between the Missing Child and Sex Trafficking (May 2012)


  • Child Welfare Information Gateway
    The Child Welfare Information Gateway is a service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The Gateway provides a wealth of information, resources, and tools pertaining to child welfare topics including child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more.  The following resources may helpful relating to youth missing from out-of-home care:
  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
    Congress created NCMEC in 1984 to provide services nationwide for families and professionals in preventing the abduction, endangerment, and sexual exploitation of children. The center: serves as a clearinghouse of information about missing and exploited children; operates a CyberTipline that the public may use to report Internet-related child sexual exploitation; provides technical assistance to individuals and law enforcement agencies in the prevention, investigation, prosecution, and treatment of cases involving missing and exploited children; assists the U.S. Department of State in certain cases of international child abduction in accordance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; offers training programs to law enforcement and social service professionals; distributes photographs and descriptions of missing children worldwide; coordinates child-protection efforts with the private sector; networks with nonprofit service providers and state clearinghouses about missing-persons cases; and provides information about effective state legislation to help ensure the protection of children
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention – Missing and Exploited Children’s Program
    The Missing and Exploited Children’s Program (MECP) provides local, state and tribal law enforcement, nonprofit organizations, and other juvenile justice practitioners with training and technical assistance relating to missing and exploited children’s issues.  It is supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.  MECP’s website provides access to their archived teleconferences and webinars, publications, and additional resources and websites.


Last updated 1/18/13