The Missouri State Highway Patrol joined more than a 100 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers this week in a statewide effort to ensure the safety and well-being of Missouri’s foster children. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Kansas City Region led the investigation. Operation H.O.P.E. (Helping Oppressed People Escape) is an initiative aimed at locating and recovering children missing from Missouri’s Foster Care Program. The operation resulted in successfully locating 23 program runaways from age 13 to 17.

Operation H.O.P.E. focused on the Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield metropolitan areas, and ultimately spanned across several Missouri counties. The goal of the officers was to ensure the safety of the foster children, while identifying and eliminating fraud and abuse occurring within Missouri’s Foster Care Program. As a direct result of this operation, five individuals were arrested, and 23 additional investigations were generated, four of which are for human trafficking.

The following agencies and departments participated in this week’s operation:

Missouri State Highway Patrol

Missouri Information and Analysis Center

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Office of Audit Services

U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Homeland Security Investigations

Federal Bureau of Investigations - St. Louis Field Office

U.S. Marshals Service

U.S. Attorney’s Office - Eastern District of Missouri

U.S. Attorney’s Office - Western District of Missouri

U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section

Missouri Attorney General’s Office

Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division, Division of Legal Services, Office of Child Advocate, Division of Finance and Administrative Services

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Kansas City Police Department, Kansas City, Missouri

Metropolitan Police Department, St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis County Police Department

Webster Groves Police Department

St. Louis City and County Juvenile Courts

Springfield Police Department

Greene County Sheriff’s Office

Greene County Juvenile Services

Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Polaris Project - National Human Trafficking Hotline

National Runaway Safeline