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DCFS launches new 24-hour Missing Child Unit

Chicago, IL (November 5, 2003) - The Department of Children and Family Services announced that its newly-created Child Location and Support Unit became fully operational Wednesday. The Unit, which oversees statewide efforts to locate missing DCFS wards, will operate around-the-clock, 365 days a year.

"When I accepted the job as the head of DCFS, I made sure it became known that finding youth missing from state care was one of my top priorities," said Director Bryan Samuels. "This unit is the result of the hard work and commitment of the Department to making sure we bring our youth back into care as quickly as possible, and once they are back, to make sure they are in placements that effectively serve their needs."

On May 13th, Director Samuels convened the Illinois Task Force on Missing Children to create a statewide strategic plan to track and locate missing wards and review issues related to youths absent from care. At that time, DCFS listed 409 children as missing. As of October 31st, more than 80 percent (331) of the original 409 children have been found. There are currently 362 children are missing from approved placements.

The innovative Child Location and Support Unit was not only proposed by the Illinois Task Force on Missing Children, but also by Governor Rod R. Blagojevich's DCFS Task Force, which was convened in February and headed by Bryan Samuels. The Unit has approximately 14 staff at the Montrose facility, with two additional staff located in Springfield. The Unit will use a first-of-its-kind Missing Child Database, which downloads information daily from a DCFS client database and automatically lists when a child as missing. A photograph and medical information is also added to the database.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), in partnership with DCFS, provided training for staff in August to prepare them to swiftly investigate reports involving missing and abducted children. The NCMEC training sessions focused on child and family abduction, media relations, recovery techniques, sexual predators, investigative resources, on-line victimization and agency planning.

"Part of the goal with training was to make sure that staff understood the dangers presented to children who runaway," said Director Samuels. "Presented with a full picture of what this population faces, staff could better understand the need to be more proactive in their search for missing youth."

The formal opening of the Unit follows the summer launch of the Department's new 24-hour Missing Children Hotline. People with information about missing or abducted DCFS ward are encouraged to call the 24-hour hotline at 866-503-0184.

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Jill Manuel
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services


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