Foster child Alisia Laboa turned 16 this month, but there was no traditional Sweet 16 party for her.
Laboa ran away from a state supervised group home in New Bedford in December, prompting State Police to issue a public appeal for help finding her. Laboa’s name and photo are posted on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website under the headline, “Help bring me home.”
On any given day, hundreds of children in the Massachusetts welfare system may be missing, mostly teenagers listed as “on the run.” By Feb. 2, that list included 134 foster children as young as 13, according to a tally by the state Department of Children and Families viewed by the Globe. Social workers stopped checking on another 13 children recently because their parents were uncooperative, rebuffing caseworkers or moving without a forwarding address, DCF officials said.
The state does not track the number of missing children in another potentially large group: those whose families are already under state supervision because their parents face allegations of abuse and neglect.
Yet Olga Roche, head of DCF, told lawmakers at a hearing last month that she was certain there were no other children in her agency’s care who were in danger or were missing, as was Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy who disappeared last year while under the state’s watch.
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