The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) has established a new Child Locator Unit within its Bureau for Children and Families. Created during the 2020 legislative session, the unit will consist of three staff dedicated to receiving reports of and locating missing foster youth.
“Children who enter the foster care system, particularly at age 12 or older, may have endured higher levels of instability, abuse and neglect, factors which heighten the risk of running away,” said Linda Watts, Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Children and Families. “This unit places a critical focus on runaway foster care youth and will work collaboratively with state and federal partners, as well as the assigned child welfare worker, to ensure a coordinated search and recovery effort.”
When a foster child is determined to be missing, a child locator will be assigned to begin gathering information about the youth and the circumstances leading to their runaway event. When missing foster children are found, the child locators will conduct an interview to understand the reasons the child chose to run away and their experiences while on the run.
This unit is expected to be fully operational by January 2021.