4.67 Locating Missing Children-Including Runaways


​As part of P.L. 113-183 “Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act” DCBS is required to “implement specific protocols for expeditiously locating any child missing from foster care.” This not only includes children who may have been abducted, but also children who have run away, sometimes referred to as AWOL. ​

Practice Guidance


The SSW:
  1. Files a missing persons report with the local law enforcement agency (city, county or state) for any missing child that is committed to the Cabinet, no later than twelve (12) hours after receiving notification that a child has gone missing; 
  2. Notifies the following agencies about the missing child immediately, but no later twenty-four (24) hours after a child has gone missing: 
    1. Local law enforcement: 1 
      1. Provide law enforcement any information that could aid in locating the child, at the time of the initial report, and any time new information becomes available; 
      2. Provide a complete description of the child; 
      3. Provide a recent photo (if available); 
      4. Provides child’s possible whereabouts, known places or locations the child frequents, and known habits of the child;
      5. Provide the child’s date of birth, school, and grade; 
      6. Describe the circumstances surrounding the disappearance/AWOL; 
      7. Provide medical and/or dental providers’ names; 
      8. Provide the complete name and description of (if applicable) the abductor, or the last person with whom the child was seen, or vehicle involved; 
      9. Record the name and badge number of the officer who takes the report. Find out who will follow up the initial investigation. Also, be sure to request the case number of the missing persons report; 
      10. Ask that all data regarding the missing child be entered into the Law Information Network of Kentucky (LINK) computer, National Crime Information Center (NCIC) 2 computer, and the Kentucky Missing and Exploited Children Unit; 
      11. Double check to make sure that the Kentucky Missing and Exploited Children Unit receives a KSP 261 Missing Persons Report and a current photo so that a flyer can be distributed statewide and to surrounding states; 
      12. Wait 24 hours and then check with the police to determine that the information has been entered. Ask to receive a copy of the printout, if desired. If the information has not been entered into the LINK and NCIC computers, then contact the Kentucky Missing and Exploited Children Unit and sign an affidavit that the local agency is in noncompliance with the law; and 
      13. Request that you be kept informed on a regular basis of the status of the investigation; and 
    2. ​National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC): 2 
      1. During office hours a web report to NCMEC may be made through the NCMEC microsite under the Report a Missing Child Here tab 
      2. If urgent or after business hours call: 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) 
      3. ​Basic information you will always be asked to provide 
        1. Child's full name 
        2. Child's date of birth 
        3. Date child went missing 
        4. City and state from where child went missing 
        5. Guardian information including agency name, and telephone 
        6. Law enforcement information including agency name and telephone 
        7. A recent photo of the child (if available) 
      4. NCMEC also requests comprehensive information regarding the child in order to be able to effectively assist in locating the child. If it is available, physical descriptive information (e.g. height, weight, hair and eye color, clothing worn), any risks or endangerments to the child, circumstances surrounding the incident, and description of any person who may be with the child; 3 
  3. Provides notice to the court of the child's disapperance within twenty-four (24) hours and requests a pickup order. The SSW will request that the pickup order explicitly asks that the child be returned to DCBS or directly to a placement. 4 
  4. Documents the details of their activities in case contacts; 
  5. Attends court proceedings regarding the child upon his/her return to placement; 
  6. Arranges transportation for the child to their placement resource upon the child's return; 
  7. Interviews the child within forty-eight (48) hours of their return to evaluate the following: 
    1. Factors that contributed to the child's disappearance; 
    2. Current level of functioning; 
    3. The child's experiences while missing; 
    4. Screening for human trafficking victimization while absent from their placement; and 
  8. Refers the child to the local child advocacy center (CAC), if applicable, and makes corresponding report to centralized intake as needed for any alleged maltreatment that occurred while child was AWOL.

Contingencies and Clarifications

  1. The SSW follows procedures listed in SOP 2.15.9 Investigations of Human Trafficking if a child reports being a victim of human trafficking, or is identified as a victim of human trafficking, after their return. 
  2. ​If the SSW and the FSOS determine through consultation, that a habitual runaway status petition is necessary, they may initiate contact with the court designated worker to initiaite that action.


  1. Information provided by the Kentucky Missing and Exploited Children . Kentucky Missing and Exploited Children reporting/follow-up contact information is 1-800-KIDSSAF (1-800-543-7723). Per the FBI, law enforcement agencies enter reports into NCIC that are accessible to law enforcement agencies nationwide. Therefore, once DCBS reports a misssing child to local law enforcement, this information should be entered into NCIC. 
  2. Information provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) . NOTE: Each worker can create an individual account on the NCMEC microsite unless region/county has one person designated to report missing children via the NCMEC online reporting microsite. Multiple workers should never use the same NCMEC online reporting account. 
  3. Law enforcement does not automatically report a misssing child to NCMEC. NCMEC will not already have the requested information if it was previously reported to law enforcement. 
  4. Filing a runaway petition in district/family court is a separate step from filing a report with law enforcement. Law enforcement does not file runaway petitions in court on missing children. An AWOL/runaway petition must be filed by parent/guardian/next of kin for any child not in the custody of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).