4550. Youth Missing from Care

Approval:  Connie Lambert-Eckel, Acting Assistant Secretary

Original Date: August 2004

Revised Date: June 7, 2018

Policy Review: June 7, 2021

Policy Update Memo Effective July 10, 2023


Dependent youth who run from out-of-home care put their safety and well-being at risk. When a youth runs from out-of-home care, staff need to act quickly to locate the youth, address the youth's reasons for leaving and develop a run prevention plan.


This policy applies to Children's Administration (CA) staff.


RCW 74.13.031 Duties of department - Child welfare services - Children's services advisory committee

PL 113-183  Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act

PL 106-386  Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protections Act of 2000


  1. Youth Missing From Care (MFC):
    1. Active and ongoing efforts must be made to locate a youth MFC within 24 hours of notification and until the youth returns to out-of-home care.
    2. A run report must be filed with law enforcement (LE) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) when a youth is MFC. CA cannot give NCMEC consent to release child information.
    3. Caregivers must be informed of the requirement to file a run report with LE and contact NCMEC at 1-800-843-5678 when a youth is MFC. Caregivers must be informed they cannot give NCMEC consent to release youth information.
    4. The youth's dependency must continue while he or she is on the run until their 18th birthday, at which time the caseworker must request to dismiss the dependency unless the youth enrolls in Extended Foster Care (EFC).
    5. When a youth is MFC overnight or longer, the case must be staffed with a supervisor within two calendar days, excluding weekends and holidays.
    6. An attorney must be requested for all youth MFC overnight or longer if the youth does not have an attorney.
    7. LE and NCMEC must be contacted for a youth remaining on the run at 18 years of age to terminate the run report.
    8. The Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) policy must be followed regarding the completion of the CSEC screen for MFC youth.
  2. Youth Returning to Care:
    1. LE, NCMEC and individuals or agencies involved with the youth must be notified within 24 hours of the youth’s return to out-of-home care.
    2. A debriefing interview must be conducted with the youth within two calendar days (excluding weekends and holidays) of returning to out-of-home care. A Returning Child De-Briefing form must be completed in FamLink.
    3. A Youth Run Prevention Plan form DCYF 10-484 must be developed or, if a plan has previously been completed, be reviewed and updated with any new relevant information with the youth.
    4. Upload the completed or updated Youth Run Prevention Plan form DCYF 10-484 in FamLink.
    5. Review the completed Run Prevention Plan with caregiver upon youth’s return to care.


  1. When youth are MFC, CA staff must:
    1. Create the FamLink Temporary Situation in Placement to document youth is on the run.
    2. Document LE run report number in a case note. If the caregiver did not file a run report or contact NCMEC, the caseworker immediately contacts LE to file a run report and obtain the LE run report number. Contact NCMEC at (1-800-843-5678) to make a run report.
    3. Notify individuals or agencies important to a youth within 24 hours of learning the youth is MFC. Individuals to notify may include but are not limited to:
      1. Legal parent or guardian
      2. Relatives
      3. Child's Attorney, Court Appointed Special Advocate, Guardian Ad Litem
      4. School
      5. Therapist
      6. Tribe
    4. Make ongoing search efforts to locate the child beginning within 24 hours of learning the youth is MFC and continue until the youth returns to care. Ongoing outreach and search efforts may include, but are not limited to the following locations, individuals, and entities:
      1. Bus stations
      2. Youth centers
      3. Family members’ and friends’ homes
      4. Places the youth may frequently be found
      5. School
      6. Homeless shelters
      7. Agency available data bases
      8. Probation/parole
      9. Communication with family, friends and known associates
    5. MFC locators only: May search social media websites and Not Safe For Work (NSFW) websites such as Craigslist and Backpage.com
    6. Notify the Regional MFC lead within 48 hours of learning a youth is MFC.
    7. Conduct a MFC staffing with the supervisor within two calendar days (excluding weekends and holidays) for youth MFC overnight or longer. Document the staffing results in FamLink. The MFC staffing includes:
      1. Search strategies and efforts
      2. Protective factors and vulnerabilities of youth
      3. Individuals contacted
      4. Potential reasons the youth ran
      5. Determining if the youth needs an attorney appointed
      6. Determining if a pick-up order and warrant are needed, and
      7. Discussing if a court hearing should be scheduled. Some factors to consider when making this determination are:
        1. Placement problems or no appropriate placement options available
        2. All other efforts and interventions have failed
        3. Youth is a chronic runner
        4. If court sanctions would be an effective deterrent for the youth
    8. Write and file a declaration for a pick-up order or warrant for the youth.
    9. Discuss the following areas at the court hearing:
      1. Placement problems or no appropriate placement options available,
      2. Additional services needed to support or stabilize the youth,
      3. Search and run prevention strategies that have occurred and
      4. Any efforts to locate the youth.
    10. Document the following in a monthly case note until the youth returns to out-of-home care or ages out of care:
      1. Continued efforts to locate youth,
      2. Any contact with the youth,
      3. Other critical information obtained related to the youth’s health, safety, or whereabouts and
      4. Any follow-up action taken since entry of prior case note.
  2. When youth return to care, CA staff must:
    1. Notify LE, NCMEC (1-800-843-5678) and other individuals important to the youth's case within 24 hours of the youth's return to out-of-home care.
    2. Assess and address any identified health or safety concerns and assist the youth in accessing appropriate care within 24 hours of the youth's return to out-of-home care.
    3. Close the Temporary Situation Placement and document the youth's current placement in the Placement page in FamLink.
    4. Conduct a debriefing interview with the youth within two calendar days (excluding weekends and holidays) of returning to out-of-home care to:
      1. Evaluate the youth for health and safety concerns and assist with appropriate care and safe placement.
      2. Discuss the youth’s interest in re-establishing connections with their biological family, including parents, grandparents, and siblings. This includes discussing skills and strategies to safely reconnect with any identified family members, provide guidance and services to assist the youth.
    5. Complete the Returning Child De-Briefing form in FamLink with the youth.
    6. Develop a run prevention plan or review and update an existing run prevention plan with any new relevant information with the youth and document on Youth Run Prevention Plan form DCYF 10-484.The run prevention plan is developed from information gathered from the youth during the returning debriefing interview and should focus on:
      1. Services or activities that the youth needs to help them stay in care including, but not limited to:
        1. Increase in family time or other safe, positive social connections,
        2. Independent living skills,
        3. Medical visits,
        4. Substance use disorder treatment,
        5. Behavioral health services
      2. Interventions that could prevent the youth from running from care, including but not limited to:
        1. Alone time,
        2. Time to visit with friends,
        3. Listening to music,
        4. Creating a list of individuals that youth will reach out to if they have a desire to run in the future,
        5. Talking to youth about what they are feeling during the “need to run” moment.
      3. Upload the completed Youth Run Prevention Plan form DCYF 10-484 in FamLink.
    7. Complete the CSEC Screening Tool DSHS 15-476 as required by the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) policy.


Youth Run Prevention Plan form DCYF 10-484

Returning Child Debriefing form DCYF 15-309

CSEC Screening Tool DSHS 15-476 (CA Intranet)


Run Prevention Tips for Staff

How to Help a Youth Who is at Risk to Run - Prevention Tips for Caregivers

Resource Information for Youth at Risk to Run - Tips for Staff and Caregivers

When a Youth Runs and Returns - Tips for Caregivers

When a Youth Returns -  Tips for Staff

Youth at Risk for Running Away - Tips for Caregivers and Staff

MFC Lead and Locator Directory