This paper defines runaway children and young people thereby giving the factors that contribute to this vice. It also gives the care that should be availed to the runaway child from the time they are located to the time the child settles and the measures to be taken to curb this act.
Children are said to be on runaway if they are absent for one or more nights from their family home or placement without the permission or are forced to leave by their parents or carers or are absent from home or placement for any length of time where their age, experience and ability is a concern. They are regarded as missing people and should be reported to the police. Children are classified unauthorized absent if they have deliberately absented themselves or they will return of their own accord or they are staying with others unknown to them, they can be easily located and are unlikely to suffer or cause any significant harm whilst absent. A child is an absconder when they are absent from placement without permission and they are subject to an interim, care order or legal requirement following criminal justice procedures such as remand fostering or curfew (South Tees pg1-24).
Parents have primary responsibility for caring for children. Not all children have parents who are willing to look after these children hence care is at times carried out other family members, adopted parents and foster parents. The care that a child receives is influenced by a variety of factors such as the identity and characteristics of their parents, their parent’s mental and physical health, and relationship with their sibling and their family’s economic circumstances (Bracknell Forest Counsel pg 1-15).
The role of fathers have changed, marriage and parenthood no longer go hand in hand and there are growing number of lone parents hence there is a challenge in ensuring that the children receive adequate care more especially for families who are experiencing problems. Good parenting gives children the tools to succeed. The quality of emotional and practical care they give such as affection and involvement to diet affect the children’s behavior as well as health. The causes are as a result of various push and pull factors. The push factors are basically internal to the home or foster care motivating the individual to run away from them. The push factors are problems at home such as arguments with parents and maltreatment, family break up, mental health problems, bullying and teenage pregnancy making them run away from home when they deny about their pregnancy. Pull factors are grooming for potential sexual exploitation or trafficking by adults who seek to exploit them and running to be near friends or family (Saskatchewan pg 8).
Looked-after children depend on the local authority to act as their corporate parent. They must assess their needs and ensure that they receive appropriate services and support. The local authority should have the interest in the progress and attainments of looked-after children. Provision of the suitable placement based on needs of the child is the effective way of minimizing the likelihood that a child would be motivated to run away. The professionals concerned should work closely together to respond to the incident in a timely way and follow the protocol for the area in which the child is placed so as to locate the child quickly
Once the child has been located, it is important to assess their needs for appropriate services such as independent advocacy, support and convene a statutory review. Local authorities in together with police forces and other partner agencies must analyze the missing from care incidents to identify trends then take steps to minimize the chances of children going missing in the future. Protocols should cover a range of joint-working procedures and systems such as agreed categories of absence and definition of missing from local authority care; appropriate responses to children and young people who go missing from care, including arrangements for making missing persons reports to the police; escalating the approach to intervention with individual children to reduce the likelihood of a child repeatedly going missing; agreed reporting and recording systems for local authorities; effective reporting and information-sharing between the local authority, the police and other agencies; prompt follow-up interviews with young people who go missing and joint-assessment information which should be used to revise and amend care plans and placement information records. Issues to be addressed in strategic monitoring reports will include: incidence of missing person’s episodes; safeguarding implications; actions when children are located; and professional practice and procedural issues. (Missing from home and care pg 1-64).
The protocol include the details of senior management posts in the local authority and in the police force that will be accountable for ensuring that all the processes agreed as part of the protocol are followed. Data about children who go missing from their care placements should be included in regular reports to council members and made available on request. These reports should include information about the numbers of children who were missing from their care placements for more than 24 hours with details as to the child’s needs and the circumstances in which they went missing. They must also include information about the measures being taken by the authority to safeguard looked-after children and reduce missing-from-care incidents. Run away child must have a care plan based on a comprehensive assessment of their needs that takes into account their wishes, feelings and their future aspirations. The care plan should inform the decision as to which placement will be most suited to meeting the child. They should monitor the progress of the plan and make decisions to amend it as necessary in light of changed knowledge and circumstances.
When a child is vulnerable to sexual exploitation, it is necessary to convene a review to consider whether the placement is able to put in place a strategy to minimize any risk to the child. A placement information record should be completed between the responsible local authority and the provider of the child’s placement. The expectations as to how they will meet the child’s needs should be set out in the placement information record, which must describe how the provider will maintain the child’s positive routines as part of their commitment to enable the child to experience a constructive placement, supporting them to achieve their potential. Standards concerned with protecting children from abuse and neglect, encountering bullying, promotion of leisure opportunities, privacy and confidentiality, access to advocacy and maintenance of familial contact are likely creating a constructive caring environment in which each child feels individually valued to minimize the likelihood of going missing from their placements.