TOPEKA – Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel is pleased to announce a significant decrease in the number of youth who have run away from their foster care placement. On August 31, 2017, there were 86 missing or runaway youth. Comparatively, on August 31, 2018, there were 63, representing a 26.7 percent decrease in the number of missing and runaway youth.
“It is exciting to see a decrease in the number of youth missing or running away from placement, as this was one of my primary focuses when I started at the agency,” Secretary Meier-Hummel said. “I am extremely proud of the work of our Missing and Runaway Youth Investigator unit. We will continue to actively look for these youth because even one child missing from placement is one too many. Ensuring their safety is of the utmost importance.”
While the number of youth who have run away from placement continues to fluctuate on a daily basis, DCF has consistently seen lower numbers, as a result of recent agency initiatives.
Since Secretary Meier-Hummel’s arrival at the agency, DCF has emphasized locating missing and runaway youth. DCF has a team of investigators dedicated to actively looking for these youth and ensuring their safety. On a regular basis, these investigators partner with contract staff and local law enforcement to locate these youth. Secretary Meier-Hummel receives a daily report on youth who are missing or have run away from placement.
Another initiative DCF has recently launched is Missing and Runaway sweeps. During these sweeps, our missing and runaway youth investigators partner with contract staff and local law enforcement to target specific locations to find youth. The agency has conducted these sweeps in Wichita and Kansas City—two of the most populated areas in the state. To date, there have been 880 recovery events.
“On a daily basis, we are working with contacts across the state to search for and locate these youth. Youth that are missing or have run away from placement are at a higher risk of becoming victims of human trafficking, among other issues and that is why the work we do is so vital. We want to help these youth and keep them safe,” Missing and Runaway Youth Investigator Kody Johnson said.
DCF has also recently partnered with the Youth Advocate Program (YAP). YAP comes alongside case managers to be advocates for families. Once in care, a youth is assigned an advocate through YAP that sticks with them regardless of where they go in the state or where they are placed. It is a trust-based relationship between the advocate and the youth. In our partnership with YAP, we will assign every youth that runs away from placement an advocate that can support them, help identify why they run and help prevent them running in the future. With this partnership, we are giving youth that run away from placement a level of safety, security and support through establishing meaningful relationships with their YAP advocate.
Meier-Hummel explains the importance of locating missing and runaway youth with
staff and local law enforcement before a sweep in Wichita.