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What if your child is a runaway?

by Dore Frances, IEC, founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC

Notify the police and file a missing person's report.

In our culture, running away has often been glorified in movies, TV and books, as if it were an adventurous American tradition of seeking a better life. The reality is much more sobering. In most cases, children are not running toward a specific new situation but rather are running away from existing problems - and thus may be issuing a loud cry for help. Most children who run away and are reported to the police as missing are between ages 13 and 15. However, some younger children threaten to, or actually do, leave home.

Do they have any distinguishable marks such as tattoos, multiple piercings, birthmarks or other marks?

Make a list.

If an ex-spouse exists, contact them to inform them of the child's disappearance and to verify that the child has not found refuge with them.

Keep records of all details of the investigation and stay in touch with authorities while your child is missing.

Call the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-621-4000.

Locate the most recent picture you have of them.

The National Runaway Switchboard operates a 24-hour confidential hot line for teens and their families. Services include: crisis intervention, information and referrals, and the Home free program in partnership with Greyhound Lines, Inc. Staff and volunteers will help you process the situation and give you support.

Utilize the National Runaway Switchboard Message Relay Service. Leave a message with staff and volunteers for your child to pick up confidentially by calling the hotline. They can also leave a message for you.

Tell others they are missing. Let them know you're concerned and ask for their help and support.

Posters can help when they are still in the area, or contact the news desk of your local television station or newspaper.

Write down a description of what they had on when you last saw them.

Check any records. Look for clues about their whereabouts in the phone bill, e-mail activity, cell phone / pager records, credit card activity, bus or airline dockets, bank statements, employment records and their computer.

Visit their school. Talk to the administration, security officers, teachers, counselors, and their classmates for any information that might be useful.

Install Caller ID or other tracing methods.

Ask for help. Could your child have been abducted? Do you need help distributing posters nationwide?

The National Runaway Switchboard can provide you with national and local organizations that can help.

Take care of yourself. This is a difficult time, and you don't have to deal with it alone. Turn to people you know and trust for support.

Not only do runaways leave anxious and worried parents behind, but they may enter a world of gangs, drugs, prostitution, AIDS, malnutrition and truancy. They are quite vulnerable and at a much higher risk of becoming involved in early sexual behavior, sexual exploitation, or alcohol and other drug use. They may end up living on the street, in a homeless shelter or in jail. Some children run simply because they are looking for a good time. Impulsively and without planning, they will flee with a friend or two, seeking the thrill of life on the run. Often these children have already experienced various difficulties, perhaps conduct problems or substance abuse.

Dore Frances, IEC, is an educcational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email
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Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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