West Virginia's Health and Human Resources Department says 651 foster care children, mostly teen boys, have run away from group care settings or schools in less than a year.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that as of Sept. 12, 72 children in state custody were still missing and classified as runaways. They're just a fraction of the more than 500 others that've escaped from less-secure state care facilities or schools since December 2018.
Health Department official Jeremiah Samples told the legislature's Joint Committee on Children and Families Tuesday that these numbers are on track to surpass last year's.
The newspaper reports West Virginia has the country's highest number of children in state custody per capita. Lawmakers have been assessing solutions to address what the outlet calls a "burdened" foster care system.