In October 2017, Project Harmony was asked to become involved in a collaboration with the Douglas County Attorney’s Office, the Juvenile Assessment Center, and Omaha Police Department’s Child Victim Sexual Assault Unit around missing juveniles who are not system involved.
Recent Omaha Police data indicated from Dec. 1, 2016 to Dec. 1, 2017 there were 3,233 reports of missing juveniles under the age of 18 with 402 of the reports involving youth age 13 years and under. These youth are most vulnerable to sexual exploitation, sex trafficking and other victimization due to their young age and vulnerabilities.
For non-system involved youth (not involved with Juvenile Justice or the Child Welfare system), there was no service in place to identify and assess for victimization and they continued to be at high risk for violence and exploitation with many exhibiting multiple run incidents. As a Child Advocacy Center, Project Harmony felt a responsibility to help seek solutions to this wide spread community problem of our most vulnerable youth.
Through private funding we hired a full-time intake coordinator and a full-time mental health practitioner in August 2018 to assist in the identification, assessment, treatment, and coordination of services to our community’s non-system involved missing youth. The primary target population for this project will be children age 13 or younger, identified by the Omaha Police Division as missing, and without current DHHS Child Welfare or juvenile justice involvement. In addition, project resources will be available for youth age 14 and older, who are missing as capacity allows.
A triage system has been established for non-system involved missing youth to be brought to Project Harmony for a thorough mental/behavioral health assessment, medical exam, forensic interview (if needed), advocacy, crisis counseling with the youth and caretaker, and connection to appropriate community services.
If needed, a follow up multi-disciplinary team review will be conducted with current providers, DHHS, law enforcement, Juvenile County Attorney and other professionals with expertise working with non-system involved youth, human trafficking, trauma, etc. to ensure information sharing, comprehensive treatment planning and identification and development of any service/resource needs or gaps.
If you are a caregiver or concerned party of a youth in Nebraska who has run away, please report them missing to your local police department and the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-652-1999. You can also call Project Harmony at 402-595-1326 for support services. Just ask to talk to a staff in the Missing Youth Services Program and we will be glad to assist you however we can.