CHICAGO (February 5,
11:50 a.m. AST) - State officials said Wednesday they cannot account for
201 children placed with foster parents or in treatment centers. Many are
teenage runaways, officials said.
Most of the missing children are 14 to 17 years old. Seventeen were
classified as abducted, probably by their biological parents, said Jerry
Slomka, deputy director of operations at the Department of Children and
"These are not children that are lost within our system. On any given
day there are absentees from the system - the number is really a moving
target," Slomka said.
"There's not a child welfare system in the country that is not faced
with this problem," he said.
Child welfare experts agreed.
"On any given day at any child welfare agency in the country, you're
going to have hundreds of kids on runaway status. Mostly they come back.
It's a floating number," said Dr. Ronald Davidson, director of the mental
health policy program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Since the disappearance of 5-year-old Rilya Wilson in Florida was
discovered last April, states across the country have reported thousands
of missing children, most of them runaway teens.
Rilya had been missing 15 months before state officials realized it.
The state said in December that 87 other children were also missing there.