Task Force reviews existing language, regulations and data for youth running away

The Office of the Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman (CPO) hosted the fourth meeting of the Timothy Montoya Task Force on Wednesday as the group began its analysis of current language, laws and data concerning children and youth who run away from out-of-home placements.

“Today was a really rich conversation and the task force was provided with a lot of information for consideration as we move forward in identifying what language we need to use, data we need to collect and gaps in regulations we need to address,” said Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman Stephanie Villafuerte.

 This month’s meeting began with a discussion on the term runaway and the implications of using it to describe the population of youth that the task force is addressing. The diverse perspectives of the 22-member task force led to a critical conversation around avoiding labels for youth who run away while being specific about why they are missing from care.

Ombudsman Villafuerte provided a review of federal and state law related to the issue of youth running away, including current practices and requirements for reporting when youth run away from out-of-home-placements. That information will serve as a foundation for the task force as it begins to analyze the factors that cause a youth to run away and ways to better treat them before and after they run. Existing gaps in current state law and regulations were highlighted along with the limitations of current case reporting processes.

The Colorado Department of Human Services gave the task force an overview of  existing data on youth running from out-of-home placements. Generally, the figures show that the number of youth running from out-of-home placements is decreasing. However, according to the data presented, this is largely due impacts from the COVID 19 pandemic and the fact that fewer youth are placed in out-of-home placements each year. The task force discussed the value of the data as well as limitations and variables that need to be accounted for.

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 over 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 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 May 3, and will be open to the public via Zoom.