As of Sept. 12, there were 72 children missing from West Virginia’s foster care system, now classified as runaways by the state.
The state has recorded 651 runaway foster care children — mostly teen boys who flee from less-secure group care settings or schools — since the end of last year through earlier this month.
The number is likely to eclipse the previous year’s number of runaways, according to Jeremiah Samples, deputy director for the Department of Health and Human Resources.
Samples detailed in front of lawmakers Tuesday what he called “gut wrenching” statistics on the state’s runaways, many of whom attempt to return to their family.
“We have about 10 to 20 kids a year who age out of state custody that no one has ever found,” he said.
Children typically exit the state’s foster care system at age 18.
Samples said the state’s encumbered Child Protective Services workers are tasked with finding the runaways.