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Audit: Nebraska lost foster care children, then failed to report them missing

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Tom Joyce

(The Center Square) - When foster care children have gone missing in Nebraska, the state has not done its job, a new report shows.

An audit from The Office of the Inspector General of the federal Department of Health and Human Services recently found that many state agencies, including the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, have failed to properly report foster care children missing – or report them missing at all.

The Inspector General's office conducted this audit of 100 children who went missing from foster care between July 1, 2018. to December 31, 2020. The audit focused on instances where children went missing for more than two calendar days.

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The sample included three instances in that stretch where foster care children went missing in Nebraska. In each of those three instances, the state failed to act in accordance with federal law. The children were never reported missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), according to the audit. 

Federal law mandates that state agencies report children missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children within 24 hours of receiving information that a child is missing. 

The NCMEC handles the country’s AMBER Alert system. AMBERT Alert is a child abduction emergency alert system that uses various means of mass communication – including the internet, radio, television, and cell phone – to inform the public about child abductions in hopes that they will alert the authorities if they see the missing child. 

A spokesperson for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services could not be reached for comment on Monday or Tuesday.