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17 yo. runaway from foster care

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  • 17 yo. runaway from foster care

    I really need some help. Let's get to it.
    A foster child, 17 years old, in Missouri, runs away from their foster home.
    This foster child will turn 18 in just a few short months.
    At 18, they want to re-emerge and be an actual, functioning adult in society. They've been missing all this time, people have given up looking for them, but they're safe and stable.
    What kind of trouble can this person get in once/ if they are found? Will the police know that they were missing at all, or will it not be significant? Will they be able to face the consequences and then continue on with life, if there are any consequences? Will they be forced into foster care again, even if they're a legal adult? Will they be able to obtain their documents (i.e. Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, etc.)?
    How does this person become fully separated from the foster care system without first turning theirself in?

    Thank you for your help and sorry for any errors.

  • #2
    Hi there,

    We are glad that you reached out to gather more information about this situation. It sounds like you have a lot of questions in mind that will help this individual plan for their future. While we are not legal experts, we can speak generally about laws regarding youth in crisis.

    In Missouri, the age of majority is 18 which is the age at which someone is considered a legal adult with the legal freedom to choose where they live. If someone leaves "home" or the living arrangement that was designated by their legal guardian or foster care caseworker, they can be reported as a runaway to the police. Running away is not illegal and is not considered a crime. However, it is a status offense which means a young person can be returned to their legal guardian if found by law enforcement. The runaway report would expire once the young person turns 18 and is considered a legal adult. At this point, the police would not be able to force them to return to their former legal guardian and there would more than likely not be any long term consequences. Again, we are not legal experts, so we always suggest that youth contact the local police department (anonymously) for more specific answers. We are also happy to refer you to legal aid for free legal advice if you contact us by phone or live chat.

    If a young person who was in foster care turns 18 and does not want any extended support from the foster care system, generally speaking they would have the freedom to choose where they live. The young person in this situation may be able to reach out to the foster care agency they were associated with or their former caseworker to request their vital documents. Additionally, the National Network for Youth has a field guide to assist young people with obtaining replacements and copies of their IDs and birth certificates.

    If you have any additional questions please do not hesitate to reach out again. We are available for confidential and immediate support by phone and live chat. 1-800-RUNAWAY;

    Take care and good luck,
    Please remember you can reach us directly by calling our 24 hour hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our Live Chat.

    National Runaway Safeline
    [email protected] (Crisis Email)
    1-800-RUNAWAY (24 Hour Hotline)

    Tell us what you think about your experience!


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