FOSTER children went missing from care more than 17,000 times in a year and 168 of those occasions were in Dorset.

Figures released by Ofsted show that the numbers going missing while living with foster carers in England rose in 2014-15 by 19 per cent from the previous year.

The total number of times youngsters went missing rose from 13,300 to 17,175 involving 5,055 children, compared to 4,245 the year before. Ofsted said the numbers were "an issue of concern" but better recording might be partly responsible for the rise.

"The reason for the rise in the number of looked after children who go missing is complex," said Sandra Conroy, senior manager for quality assurance and performance for Dorset County Council.

"In Dorset, we are working hard to identify children at serious risk of harm at a younger age and planning for safer permanent care options. We are working with partner agencies on a number of preventative strategies so that we can intervene before care is needed."

She added: "When a young person is reported as missing, there is close liaison between the police and social care to locate them. All young people are then offered a ‘return home interview’, so that prevention of further episodes can be discussed.

"The workforce is trained to identify the possible risks associated with child sexual exploitation and there are mechanisms in place to identify and disrupt these activities that put children and young people at risk."

Ofsted's figures for Dorset from April 1 2014 to March 31 2015 give the number of children involved as 25, of whom five were missing longer than 28-days. This was out of 423 placements and the biggest reason given, 111 times, was contact with family and friends.

The local authority says that three looked after children accounted for 80 per cent of the episodes. The majority were missing one day or less and longer episodes related mostly to 17-year-olds staying with friends.

Bournemouth had 198 in foster care of whom five went missing six times. Poole had 156 placements and four children went missing eight times.