Mayor Bowser Highlights Progress in Implementing Six Steps to Protecting Youth in Washington, DC
(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Bowser updated the public on the Administration’s progress in implementing the six steps to protect DC’s youth. Mayor Bowser was joined at today’s announcement by Child and Family Services Agency Director Brenda Donald and Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants Director Michelle Garcia.
“One missing young person is one too many. We must break the cycle of teens leaving home, and that means offering families and young people more wraparound services and more support,” said Mayor Bowser. “Through these six initiatives, we are ensuring that not only are we locating our young people when they are reported missing, but also putting systems and programs in place to support their growth and development going forward.”
Progress made in implementing the six initiatives includes:
Initiative 1: Increase Number of MPD Officers Assigned to Children and Youth Services Division Tasked with Locating Youth Reported Missing
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has been tasked with increasing officer staffing of the Youth and Family Services Division. The newly assigned officers will share the responsibility of locating youth who have been reported missing.
To date, MPD has a total of 15 detectives and officers dedicated to locating and serving missing youth and their families.
Initiative 2: Expansion of the MPD Missing Persons Webpage and Social Media Messaging to Include Case Catalog with Broader Information
The previous MPD Missing Persons website included a tally of cases and very general information on each open case. The updated site provides easily navigable information about missing persons across the District, including resources for families and teens, easy to download missing alert flyers, missing person statistics, and helpful resources for families who need to report a loved one missing. The updated site is available at missing.dc.gov.
Initiative 3: Establish the Missing Persons Evaluation and Reconnection Resources Collaborative
The Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants (OVSJG), and identified community-based organizations assisted MPD with outlining a comprehensive evaluation for youth who are found or return home. The evaluation will assess the circumstances for their departure and help agencies provide additional resources and services to support the health and well-being of the child and the family. The proposed response and protocol will be reviewed by agency partners and budget teams in order to identify resources required for implementation.
STATUS: Draft Completed
Initiative 4: OVSJG and CFSA Lead Working Group
The Working Group was charged with:
- developing a protocol to ensure that every runaway youth, upon return, is assessed and the reason for leaving established;
- creating a process that will ensure support for families while a child is missing and services available when he/she returns; and
- identifying prevention efforts with families, schools, the Summer Youth Employment Program, and others.
The Working Group began with presentations by government and community partners on current data, policies, protocols, services, and supports available to youth and their families in situations where young people are reported missing as well as those where no report has been made. In addition, three listening sessions were held with 22 youth involved with Sasha Bruce, Latin American Youth Center, Fair Girls, Courtney’s House, and CFSA to ensure that lived experiences of youth centered the recommendations of the Working Group.
The Working Group used a variety of methods to identify gaps in data collection and sharing, policies and protocols, and available services and supports. Finally, the Working Group developed recommendations in three categories:
- Response Protocol
- Support for Youth and Families
STATUS: Recommendations Submitted
Initiative 5: DMHHS and OVSJG Additional Grant Support for Non-Profits Addressing Runaway Youth
DMHHS and OVSJG have promoted grant funding to both advocacy and community-based organizations. The City Fund Safer, Stronger DC Community Opportunity Grant request for proposal was released on May 5 and will close on June 2. Awards are expected to be announced in mid-July.
STATUS: Grant awards will be announced mid-July
Initiative 6: PSA Announcement to Support Public Education Addressing Missing Youth in DC
The Mayor’s Office of Communications and the Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment shot, recorded, and edited PSAs designed to educate young people and the public on preventing children and youth from leaving home. The PSA was shared via Mayor Bowser’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and was placed in rotation in social media. In addition, a print ad was developed for placement in newspapers and in select Metro stations.
MPD has a General Order that governs the process for dealing with persons reported missing. The order classifies anyone under the age of 15 or over the age of 65 as being a “critical missing person.” There is no minimum time required for MPD to file a missing person report (popular lore is that a person must be missing at least 24 hours before they can be designated as missing).
In looking at previous years, the vast majority of missing person cases are closed when the person is found, returns home, or makes contact with their families. According to MPD, their records indicate that over the past 35 years, only 68 cases remain open.
Missing person cases usually involve individuals who have voluntarily left home for personal reasons. When it comes to missing juveniles, a significant number have been reported missing on more than one occasion, and they are usually quickly found or return home.
According to MPD, there is no evidence to suggest the recent missing person cases are connected to human trafficking. However, these crimes are generally underreported and MPD offers outreach and officer training on the issue. Juveniles are referred to nonprofit organizations like Courtney’s House and Fair Girls for services, support, and encouragement to report being the victims of criminal activity. In 2014, MPD worked with ShareHope, Polaris Project, Fair Girls, Courtney’s House, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants to develop a four-hour training course on human trafficking for all officers. More than 80 percent of MPD officers have taken the course and the training is ongoing.
To find the most recent data on missing person cases in Washington, DC go to missing.dc.gov.