More than 1,800 children and youth in foster care in Texas were reported missing during fiscal year 2018, according to a new report from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. DFPS was responsible for more than 52,000 kids during that period.
Similar numbers were reported in the previous two years.
Nearly 86 percent of the kids reported missing were found by Aug. 31. Of those who were still missing by then, 64 had exited foster care; another 197 were still missing and had been gone an average of 11 weeks. DFPS says it continues to search for any child or youth missing from foster care until the department no longer has legal authority over them.
Blanca Denise Lance, the human trafficking and child exploitation director for DFPS, said there are a few reasons kids say they leave foster care: "anger at the CPS system, dislike of the rules of the placement they were in, a strong desire to be on their own."
She said the majority of youth run away to reunite with family and friends, but a small number do become victims of crimes.
“Youth have reported that sex trafficking occurs, and when that happens, we are responsible as caregivers to these youth," she said. "We work to connect them to the right services to help them address whatever traumas they might have endured in that time.”
Lance said the foster care system is often associated with youth being at a higher risk for human trafficking, but DFPS has found it's only a small percentage.
“Of the 1,582 children that were recovered," she said, "52 reported victimization.”
When trafficking is reported, Lance said, DFPS connects the young people to support services. The agency also works collaboratively with law enforcement.
Of the children and youth reported missing, 55% were female and 45% were male. The race/ethnicity of the kids was similar to the percentages for all children in DFPS conservatorship: 42% were Hispanic, 28% were white, and 25% were black. Most had left residential treatment centers and emergency shelters.