Child protection workers are investigating a Maplewood foster care facility, after four children ran away from the residence and were found along a nearby freeway, police said.
Maplewood police chief Dave Thomalla said the children -- ages 4, 6, 8 and 9 -- left a short-term emergency foster care home early Thursday morning. The private residence houses children who have been removed from their original home due to abuse or other child protection concerns, he said.
"These four children, apparently under the guidance of one of them, decided that it would be good not to be at this shelter home, and basically did the great escape," he said.
A driver on I-35E noticed the children on the shoulder of the freeway near the Roselawn exit at about 5:30 a.m. and called police.
Thomalla said the children were trying to flag down motorists so they could borrow a cell phone to call for a ride. He said at least two of the children are related. The children didn't say where they planned to go, and police returned the children to the facility, he said.
"Kids run from these homes, and we've experienced that before," he said. "It's kind of like they don't want to be at home, and they don't want to be placed in another home, and they run away."
The facility is a private residence affiliated with Ramsey County, Thomalla said. He declined to provide the name of the facility, citing privacy concerns, but said that Ramsey County Child Protection Services is investigating the residence.
Ramsey County Child Protection Services could not be reached for comment.
Thomalla said that he doesn't know how the children were able to run away from the facility without anyone noticing. He said that a similar incident occurred several weeks ago when a child ran away from his grandfather's home in the middle of the night.
"It's a matter of how well your home is secured, I suppose, when you go to bed at night," he said.