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Nation

Illinois officials say 201 children missing from welfare system
Copyright 2003 Nando Media
Copyright 2003 AP Online



The Associated Press

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 Family Services.

"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.



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