J. Children who are Missing or Victims of Sex Trafficking

If a child in DFPS managing conservatorship is missing from the child's substitute care provider, including a child who is abducted or is a runaway, DFPS shall notify the following persons that the child is missing:

•   The appropriate law enforcement agencies;

•   The court with jurisdiction over the department's managing conservatorship of the child;

•   The child's attorney ad litem;

•   The child's guardian ad litem; and

•   The child's parent unless the parent:

◦   cannot be located or contacted;

◦   has had the parent's parental rights terminated; or

◦   has executed an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.123(a).

DFPS must provide the notice required by Tex. Fam. Code § 264.123(a) not later than 24 hours after the time DFPS learns that the child is missing or as soon as possible if a person entitled to notice under Tex. Fam. Code § 264.123(a) cannot be notified within 24 hours. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.123(b).

If a child has been reported as a missing child under Tex. Fam. Code § 264.123(a), DFPS must notify the persons described by Tex. Fam. Code § 264.123(a) when the child returns to the child's substitute care provider not later than 24 hours after the time the department learns that the child has returned or as soon as possible if a person entitled to notice cannot be notified within 24 hours. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.123(c).

DFPS must make continuing efforts to determine the location of a missing child until the child returns to substitute care, including:

DFPS must document in the missing child's case record:

After a missing child returns to the child's substitute care provider, DFPS must interview the child to determine the reasons why the child was missing, where the child stayed during the time the child was missing, and whether, while missing, the child was a victim of conduct that constitutes an offense under Tex. Penal Code § 20A.02(a)(7). DFPS must report to an appropriate law enforcement agency any disclosure made by a child that indicates that the child was the victim of a crime during the time the child was missing. DFPS shall make a report under this subsection not later than 24 hours after the time the disclosure is made. DFPS is not required to interview a missing child under this subsection if, at the time the child returns, DFPS knows that the child was abducted and another agency is investigating the abduction. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.123(f).

For more information, please see the Bench Book Chapter entitled Human Trafficking.

Special Issue: Children in foster care and children who run away are at a higher risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. Traffickers manipulate youth with promises of food, clothing, and shelter. The first hours after a child or youth runs away can be critical to maintaining safety and preventing victimization. Consider holding hearings to determine what efforts have been made to locate missing children.