Since July 2019, 168 children have gone missing from care homes, foster carers or other settings.
Figures also revealed that many of the children went missing multiple times with 891 total reported cases during the three-year period.
The FOI submitted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service also showed a huge spike in cases during lockdown, with the number of reports during the peak of the pandemic almost three times higher than pre-Covid rates.
It is believed that many youngsters in care struggled to cope with tighter curfews and movement restrictions, fuelling a rise in missing children reports.
In response, Dudley Council has highlighted the effect the pandemic has had on some of its most vulnerable children and their support networks. Rates look set to rise again in 2022 with half the number of last year’s total already reported before the end of July.
Two-thirds of the lost children were between 15-17, but 29 of the children were under the age of 13. This included six ten-year-olds and one nursery-aged child, who is understood to have reportedly safely found shortly after the report was made.
Councillor Ruth Buttery, the cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The wellbeing and safeguarding of children remain a top priority and we work closely with our partners to support those who are most at risk. This data highlights all too well how the pandemic affected some of our most vulnerable youngsters, with the closure of schools and other facilities seriously impacting their routines and support networks.
“During the pandemic, Dudley Council increased partnership safeguarding meetings and worked with schools to ensure spaces were offered to those who most needed them, which is why regionally we saw some of the highest numbers in school. We are continuously making improvements to our safeguarding processes and hold a daily meeting with partners to check for and review any missing children.”
The figures did not cover the outcome of all cases – or the number of days that children were missing. Care bosses say that all reports of missing children followed a strict process, with social workers, police and other agencies meeting daily to track missing youngsters.
Previously published figures showed West Midlands Police handled 40,000 cases of children being reported missing between 2020 to date.
The West Midlands Safeguarding Children Partnerships said children on the run were at risk of physical and sexual abuse, with those who did so repeatedly at even greater risk from grooming.
A spokesman said: “In fact, children or young people who repeatedly go missing are often being enticed away from their placement by risky activities that they see as exciting or by predatory influences and as such the risk is increased. Inspections have told us that the multi-agency response to missing children requires further development."