During its third meeting Wednesday, the Timothy Montoya Task Force to Prevent Children from Running Away from Out-of-Home Placement explored the systems that respond to youth when they run from out-of-home placements. The group also listened to researchers present two compelling studies on who runs away and why.
“What we are doing here is really important and the community is really engaged in this conversation,” said Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman Stephanie Villafuerte. “As we decide what directions we want to go and what recommendations we want to make, it will just help to know that our community is behind us and that they are listening and learning.”
To start the meeting, it was announced that Denver Public Safety Youth Programs program manager Beth McNalley will serve as the vice chair of the task force. McNalley currently oversees the city’s Runaway, Outreach, Notification, and Intervention (RONI) program and Youth Denver Anti-Trafficking (DATA) Multidisciplinary Team.
Tapping into the task force’s diverse perspectives and areas of expertise, members began by learning about the current procedures that agencies follow when a youth runs away from an out-of-home placement. Stakeholders representing the Colorado Department of Human Services, county human service agencies, treatment facilities and law enforcement each shared how the process plays out and their personal experiences with it.
Additionally, academic researchers from the University of Nebraska Omaha’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice presented the results of a national study on youth who went missing from foster care from 2010 to 2019. The study found that children of color, girls, older youth, children with substance abuse or behavioral issues and those with prior runaway behaviors were all at a higher risk for going missing.
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 13 times during a two-year period 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 will be made available on the Timothy Montoya Task Force page. The next meeting of the task force is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. (MST), on March 1, and will be open to the public via Zoom.