- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 16, 2002

The D.C. Child and Family Services is searching for a 14-year-old boy who fled the agency's custody in a stolen car more than a week ago.

The teen-ager stole a District government vehicle and disappeared on March 7, said Family Services officials. Neither the boy nor the vehicle have been found.

"We have confirmed that a 14-year-old boy absconded and stole a government vehicle in the process," said spokesman Derek Stewart.

"We continue to work with the Metropolitan Police Department and other partners to find him."

The agency had some trouble confirming the vehicle type. But later disclosed that it was a van, make and model unknown.

The agency's abscond unit filed a report on the missing boy last week. They are not releasing the boy's name and will not give the name of the facility from which the boy fled.

"Our procedure is to file a verbal and written report to D.C. police. We then file a custody order. These procedures were followed in this case," Mr. Stewart said.

"We are not at liberty to release any information regarding clients in our care."

The agency has a long history of problems, from delays in placing foster children to a lack of foster homes and inadequate investigations of abuse and neglect complaints.

In 1991, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan ruled the child-welfare system a "travesty," and when the District failed to meet federal standards, he ordered it into independent receivership in 1995.

The agency was later the focus of major criticism in January 2000 after Brianna Blackmond, one month shy of her second birthday, died while in the custody of her mother, who was facing drug charges.

Ernestine F. Jones, former head of the long-troubled agency, was arrested at her home in Aug. 2000 for failing to respond to Superior Court subpoenas asking the agency to explain why it failed to check for three months on a 20-month-old boy abandoned by his mother, a drug addict.

She resigned on Nov. 30, 2000.

The District regained control of the agency in June 2001.

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