For Immediate Release
February 7, 2021
Special Report Issued:
Missingness Among Nebraska Children in Out-of-Home Care
The Foster Care Review Office (FCRO) and the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) School of Criminology and Criminal Justice announced today the release of a special report: Examining Missingness Among Children in Out-of-Home Care Placements in Nebraska. The joint report explores factors related to missingness (child is reported as a missing person or runaway) among Nebraska’s children in out-of-home care placements across child welfare and youth justice systems. The full report can be found here.
Lincoln, NE – The Foster Care Review Office (FCRO) announced today the release of recent findings of a joint FCRO-UNO research study on the prevalence and context of missingness (i.e., the child has been reported as a missing person or runaway) among children in out-of-home care placements in Nebraska. Data comprised of (1) officially reported missing minors (i.e., 18 years and younger) from a point-in-time count of missing persons in Nebraska on 1/20/20 and (2) administrative records from the FCRO for children described as in an out-of-home placement or having just been in an out-of-home placement and nearing permanency completion on 1/20/20.
Tara N. Richards, Ph.D., of UNO explains: “Based on our findings from the LB-154 study – that most missing Nebraskans were minors, and disproportionately Black and Native American minors – we knew we needed to further explore the potential drivers of missingness among Nebraska’s youth. Our collaborative study with the Foster Care Review Office showed a relationship between out-of-home care and missingness – nearly 30% of missing youth were in out-of-home care – and identified key areas of consideration for policy makers and practitioners regarding keeping children present in their placements.”
Further analysis identified that 3% of children in out-of-home care placements at the point-in-time of the study were officially reported as a missing person. Children in out-of-home care who were reported as missing were significantly older than children in out-of-home care who were not reported as missing. In addition, children who were missing from out-of-home care were again disproportionately Black and Native American.
Findings also showed that placement instability – more times in out-of-home care, more out-of-home care placements, and shorter stays in the most recent out-of-home placement – was associated with missingness as was being under probation supervision. Significantly greater percentages of children who were officially reported missing were in group homes, institutions, independent living placements, detention facilities, and near permanency placements, while significantly greater percentages of children who had not been officially reported missing were in relative/kinship foster home placements and trial home visits.
Qualitative analysis of case reviews for approximately half of children in out-of-home care placement who were reported as missing showed high rates of untreated youth substance use and mental health challenges. Episodes of violence and victimization including suspected and documented sex trafficking were also identified. In addition, the impacts of placement instability – in particular poor bonds to school – were highlighted.
Taken together, the study suggests that increased support for high-need children in out-of-home care and training for their caregivers is needed. Future research and policy priorities must focus on ways to identify and intervene in the lives of children in out-of-home placements before they go missing from care.
“A number of key stakeholders, such as the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Administrative Office of the Courts and Probation – Juvenile Services Division have already met with us to discuss study findings and ways to focus attention on and reduce the number of youth missing from their out-of-placements,” said Monika Gross, Executive Director of the FCRO. “As with all significant research studies, there are additional linkages that need to be examined, such as LGBTQ+ youth, youth involved in out-of-home care due to their delinquency status, and youth with known mental health conditions.”
Richards added, “UNO SCCJ’s Victimology and Victim Studies Research Lab looks forward to continuing to help stakeholders use data to understand this complex issue.”
Monika E. Gross, JD, Executive Director 402.310.9618
Heather Wood, MS, CLSSEGB, Research Director 402.937.2923
Foster Care Review Office
1225 L Street, Suite 401
Lincoln, NE 68508
402.471.4420 (main line)
The FCRO is an independent state agency not affiliated with the Department of Health and Human Services or its contractors, Courts, the Office of Probation, the Office of Inspector General for Child Welfare, or any other entity.