Who would figure out this pattern?
July 12, 2006 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Who keeps track of adopted/fostered children on the federal level in the US?

I'm writing an alien abduction story in which large numbers of fostered and adopted kids disappear in a short span of time. I am wondering which agency (or agencies) would keep track of those kids - specifically, who might notice the pattern (that it isn't just kids disappearing, but specifically kids who aren't living with their parents)? Or is this strictly a state issue?
posted by joannemerriam to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I should preface this by saying that I don't know anything about anything, but adoption is done by the states. One way a federal agency might notice is pursuant to the adoption tax credit. That may not be very sexy though. Suddenly thousands less people are apply for the adoption tax credit! Oh no! However, a similar thing happened with non-adopted children not too long ago. It might work.
posted by ND¢ at 2:06 PM on July 12, 2006

Best answer: If I were writing the story, I would contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and see if someone there might have some useful information. They do work closely with the FBI.
posted by Gator at 2:13 PM on July 12, 2006

I don't think that any federal agency does.
posted by unixrat at 2:19 PM on July 12, 2006

State agencies have a hard enough time keeping track of kids in the system -- I doubt the feds would plausibly discover a pattern, because the states are the source of the fed's data. But if it were to happen, it would be the Department of Health and Human Services - Children's Bureau. More likely, it would be the other way around: a law enforcement official would see that the disappeared kids were foster children or adopted, rather than the welfare officials seeing the pattern.

Here's an idea, though: New Jersey just put into place a state cabinet level child welfare position and is pouring tons of money into the system, which will presumably involve more closely tracking the kids. Maybe this new attention will reveal an unsettling pattern....
posted by footnote at 2:22 PM on July 12, 2006

In the recent past we have empirical evidence that the Feds are not involved and wouldn't notice anything. I'm referring to what happened in Florida. There's been an ongoing scandal there about the Department of Children and Families, which is responsible for keeping track of kids on foster care.

In principle, a case worker is supposed to visit every such kid once a month. But it turned out that their caseworkers weren't actually making the visits but were falsifying records, and once someone took a serious look at the situation it turned out that they couldn't find hundreds of kids that the system was supposed to be keeping track of.

In one notorious case, a caseworker filed a report about visiting a kid and finding him healthy just after the kid had been murdered. That murder was the only reason the falsification came out; that kind of thing had been going on for years in Florida and no one had noticed it.

So who would notice a large number of disappearances in a short time? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be "nobody".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:37 PM on July 12, 2006

But maybe in this story, the kids going missing are actually in loving homes that actually report them missing and raise a fuss, rather than abusive or neglectful homes that are trying to cover something up? That'll probably be an important detail, as it is in real life -- whether the missing kids are actually reported missing.
posted by Gator at 2:42 PM on July 12, 2006

Check Jeff Wells archives, The Military-Occult Complex, ritual abuse/mind control, and "High Weirdness"
posted by hortense at 3:01 PM on July 12, 2006

Best answer: The first issue here is the fact that you're lumping "foster care" and "adopted" children into one big "substitute care" pile, which I don't believe is really appropriate for the point of view you're using (of being able to identify kids who were ___ who had been adopted). In most states, when a child is legally adopted, they essentially get a new identity, and there's really no way any agency can see a pattern of ___ happening to formerly adopted children.

Foster care is a different issue. Removals from the home into foster care is tracked at the state level, and reported to the federal government semi-annually in the form of an AFCARS file.

A child who is in foster care who is abducted would probably be reported in the AFCARS file as a "Runaway" (there are only eight possible discharge reasons, and none of the others are even close, except maybe "Death of Child"). A significant uptick in children discharged as "runaway" would almost certainly be noticed by the states as they're compiling their AFCARS files every October and April. It definitely would get noticed in Pennsylvania -- I'm the one who would be responsible for noticing it. :)
posted by Doofus Magoo at 3:11 PM on July 12, 2006

...but only if there isn't a widespread tendency at lower levels to falsify the records, which was the problem in Florida.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:14 PM on July 12, 2006

True; if the counties are responsible for reporting their data to the state (which is becoming less and less prevalent as states struggle to implement the statewide case management systems (aka SACWIS) mandated by the feds), then the data are only as good as what the counties report. I don't think that's all that relevant to the original question, however, since we're talking about alien abductions, not criminally negligent caseworkers.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 3:17 PM on July 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody; I think the police will have to be the ones to connect the dots. This is very helpful!
posted by joannemerriam at 4:26 PM on July 12, 2006

In addition, some countries require post-progress reports on children adopted internationally. There was a bit of a stink in February due to low compliance rates among parents of children adopted from Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstan Ministry of Justice threatened to suspend international adoptions because of it. As Doofus Magoo said, there is no U.S. federal agency that tracks adoptions, domestic or international, but you could plausibly have a foreign embassy or consulate investigate missing post-placement reports as part of a larger pattern.

Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine are the only countries I know of that require reports, but there may be others.
posted by sonofslim at 6:06 AM on July 13, 2006

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