Most of the thousands of children who are reported missing each year are in foster care, and some members of Congress want the federal government to do more to respond to the problem.
Researchers know that most youth are only gone for a week or so but that many aren’t located for a month or more.
Senate Bill 3907, introduced late last month by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa and Debbie Stabenow (D) of Michigan, would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate state and tribal efforts to track who is missing and what steps they take to find them.
The department would have three years to finish the study and establish a means to provide technical assistance to the states and tribes. An identical bipartisan bill is expected to be introduced in the House.
In a statement, Grassley called the number of missing kids “deeply disturbing,” while Cornyn said, “It is an abomination that thousands of Texas children in foster care are not accounted for, especially when these children are at higher risk of being trafficked. By increasing coordination between federal agencies and states, we can help ensure vulnerable children remain in a safe home instead of falling through the cracks.”
This legislation, dubbed the Find and Protect Foster Youth Act, is endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to the senators’ statement.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a website run by the federal Children’s Bureau, foster youth run away or otherwise go missing for many reasons. Some common themes include seeking to have contact with their families or friends, feeling unsafe or uncared for in their placement and wanting more freedom and autonomy. While absent from care, though, they are at high risk of being sexually or physically victimized, getting in trouble with the law, using drugs or alcohol or falling prey to human traffickers.