Timothy Montoya Task Force meets during National Runaway Prevention Month

Coinciding with National Runaway Prevention Month, the second meeting of the Timothy Montoya Task Force to Prevent Children from Running Away from Out-of-Home Placement was hosted by the Office of Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman (CPO) on Wednesday.

Task force members began the meeting by discussing their takeaways from September’s inaugural meeting where they heard the lived experiences of several individuals who ran away from foster homes and residential facilities as youth. Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman Stephanie Villafuerte pointed to runaway behavior being the symptom and not the cause.

“As we heard from our youth, they are innocents here,” said Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman Stephanie Villafuerte. “They were brought into this system by no choice of their own. What these youth were saying is perhaps the child welfare system didn’t account for their needs to still stay in touch with family as often as they should, or perhaps the behavioral health system didn’t keep children in touch with their families and communities as they should.”

The Colorado General Assembly’s charge of the task force in House Bill 22-1375 was reviewed along with the specific issues the group is tasked with analyzing, including sufficiency of statewide data, root causes of why youth run away from out-of-home placements, effectiveness of current state laws and regulations, and best practices for preventing and addressing runaway behaviors.

The group then analyzed internal survey findings that communicated the members’ baseline views, experiences and questions as well as the data, information and youth experiences they’d like captured throughout the process. A member of the public who lives near a residential facility and has witnessed youth running away also shared their perspective during the public comment period.

Named after 12-year-old Timothy Montoya who was hit and killed by a car shortly after running away from his out-of-home placement in June 2020, the task force is meeting the first Wednesday of every other month for two years to develop a consistent, prompt and effective response for youth who run away from foster care and residential child care facilities.

A recording of the complete meeting is now available on the Timothy Montoya Task Force page.

The next meeting of the task force is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. (MST), on January 4, and will be open to the public via Zoom.