DCF Still Losing Foster Kids

The Department of Children and Families can’t find 652 foster children in its care.

The majority are runaways or parental abductions. The problem first came to light in 2002 when five-year-old Rilya Wilson had been missing for 15 months before her disappearance was discovered.

The department is not following the law when it comes to providing guardians for many foster children.

Losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare, but losing foster children is routine for the Department of Children and Families.

The department Web site lists 652 missing foster kids. That’s up from just over 500 when Rilya Wilson was discovered missing four years ago.

Still, Zoraya Suarez, the department spokeswoman, says it knows where 99 percent of its foster kids are, giving it one of the best records in the country.

“We work hand in hand with law enforcement. The vast majority of these teens are chronic runaways, but we never stop looking.”

Child advocate Karen Gievers says DCF should, but isn’t putting the same effort into finding kids that a parent would.

“If a child feels safe, then a child won’t leave a place of safety. It’s when the child feels more in danger in a place the department puts the child that a child runs, and how many times does a child have to be raped in a foster home?”

State law says that every foster child must have a guardian ad litem, but there aren’t enough to go around. That means about half the kids in foster care have no one from the outside looking in on their welfare.

The DCF list of missing still includes Rilya Wilson, who would be 10 in September.

You can check out the list of missing kids at the DCF Web site: www.dcf.state.fl.us/missingkids or at the Florida Missing Children’s database at www3.fdle.state.fl.us/MCICSearch