The assessment of the child’s need should take into account the factors that led to their running away and that the care plan includes a strategy to minimize the child going missing in the future. There should be a consistent plan to be followed with roles and responsibilities assigned to the professionals involved in caring for the child should the child run away again. Parents and any other persons with parental responsibility must be informed as soon as possible that their child is missing unless there are good reasons connected with the child’s welfare for this to be inappropriate. Providers of care for children living outside their home area have responsibility for ensuring that the children they care for are able to make use of appropriate local services. (Missing from home and care pg 1-64).
The information must be recorded in the placement plan which should match the information about the child’s needs included in their care plan. Notification should be made of the placement to the host local authority and to the local police force. Where a child has been missing from their care placement, the responsible authority should ensure that plans are in place to respond promptly once the child is located but the professionals involved are unable to establish meaningful contact with the child since they are under duress, then the accountable staff in the authority will consider whether it is appropriate to apply to the court for a recovery order. Consultation with professionals should be made about the factors that led to the child running away or going missing from their placement.
The local authority must take full account of the circumstances that led to the child running from their placement to avoid the child being returned to an abusive environment. Where children run away persistently and engage in other risky behavior like frequently leaving their placement to associate with unfamiliar adults, the carer in consultation with the authority responsible should convene a multi-agency risk management meeting to develop a strategy with all relevant agencies for managing the identified risks to young people where groups of young people run away from their care placement together and are involved in alcohol abuse are being sexually exploited thereby committing offences. The authority responsible for the child’s or young person’s care should ensure that they have the opportunity of a return interview best provided by a professional from a voluntary agency trained to carry out these interviews and is able to follow up any actions that emerge with the authority responsible for the child’s care. Run away children need to build up trust with somebody before they respond to an interview and discuss the reasons why they decided to run away.
The interview should identify and deal with any harm the child has suffered, harm that might not have already been disclosed, understand and address the reasons why the child ran away, whether the child engaged in lecherous activities during their absence, harmed, has mental health issues, is at risk of sexual exploitation and has contact with persons posing risk to children and prevent it from happening again. Provision should be made for the child to be in a safe place before any assessment takes place and for the possibility that they may not be able to disclose full information about their circumstances immediately. The location of the child should not be divulged to any enquirer until their identity and relationship with the child has been established with the help of police and immigration services (Missing from home and care pg 1-64).
The Government should introduce a national referral mechanism provides improved procedures for local agencies to identify, refer and support child victims of trafficking and prevent them from going missing. Managers of children’s homes should ensure that cares for vulnerable children are offered the support necessary equip them to deal with the challenges they face when a child is in their care runs away. Staff teams in children’s homes should be developed to offer a consistent approach to young people’s care. Social workers need to provide for the foster carers they supervise with support to enable carers to develop the skills detect the possibility of a young person running away and divert them from this course of action. This should be included in general training about safeguards for looked after children. The competence and support needs of carers should be considered during routine management appraisal and supervision.