- Boston 25 News spent a year investigating the failures of the foster care system and looking into the stories of children who go missing while in the foster care system. We found examples nationwide where kids' cases were closed when they were still missing. Since 2000, federal records show child welfare agencies across the country closed the cases of more than 53,000 foster kids listed as "runaway" and at least another 61,000 children listed as "missing."
- For years, Massachusetts DCF has been telling the feds it hasn't closed a single case of a foster kid who's missing, but researchers, child advocates and a review by 25 Investigates found otherwise. We shared firsthand accounts of young adults who say when they returned to DCF for help, they were told their cases were closed.
- Shortly after our series began running in May, 2018 Governor Charlie Baker told 25 Investigates last year it never closes the case of a missing child. "Well, first of all we don't ever close the case of a foster kid when they're still missing," said Baker. "We don't close the cases."
We didn't hear from Commissioner Linda Spears until November 2018. She insisted the state hasn't shut out any foster children who've wanted help. When confronted with the findings of 25 Investigates and the direct accounts of former foster kids who say they were denied services, the DCF commissioner seemed to put the blame on the former foster kids themselves. "There are some kids who leave our system who have elected – whether it was a good choice or not—not to receive services," Spears said. "They're always able to come back to us if they need assistance."
- But, Commissioner Spears also told us in November it had launched a pilot program with an intense focus on finding missing foster children. They're also working to identify youth at risk to run and get the intervention services they need before they run.
- 25 Investigates wanted to know if the program is working and what it entails. So news anchor and investigative reporter, Kerry Kavanaugh pulled the numbers. She found there are fewer missing children, nearly 40% fewer as a result, but work remains to be done.
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