Missing children - guidance for parents

Running away is when a child or young person chooses to leave home or care without permission.


The majority of young people who run away from home do so to avoid what's going on in their personal circumstances and usually see themselves as 'runaways' rather than 'missing' children or young people.

If a child or young person runs away and no one knows where they are, whatever the reasons for running away or 'disappearing', they will be reported as missing. They will be 'missing' until they are found and are deemed to be safe. If a child or young person stays out later than they're supposed to, but you as parent(s) or carer(s) know where they are, they will not be seen to be 'missing'.

By running away they could put themselves in a lot of danger. Sleeping rough is particularly dangerous for young people. Below are just some of the examples of difficulties that they might face.

They could:

  • Become a victim of street crime or get involved in committing crimes
  • Have increased health issues if they live rough
  • Find it hard to go home, as they might worry that they will be in trouble.

Why do some young people run away?

There can be many reasons why a child or young person feels that running away from home is the only solution to their problems. Some of these reasons might be:

  • They don't get on with their family
  • They feel unsafe at home
  • They have other problems outside of their home, i.e. being bullied or involved in drugs, etc.

Some children and young people run away because they are being abused, neglected or experiencing violence where they're living.

There are complex issues facing Asylum Seeking Children. Information about some children's whereabouts is not always maintained due to the transient nature of their accommodation arrangements.

Agencies must however be alert to the fact that some children are trafficked into, within and out of the UK for custom related reasons, to be abused and exploited for commercial gain, including through sex, for domestic servitude, etc.

Where can I get help if my child might be thinking about running away or has run away?

Whatever the problem, there are many organisations that can help you, and it's never too later to try and sort out your situation. Getting help whilst your child is still living at home is usually a better option than having them run away. 

If the child or young person feels that they have to get out straightaway for their own safety, for example, someone with whom you're living is being violent or abusive towards them, he/she must get help immediately. If a child or young person is in such a situation, they can:

Speak to a social worker by contacting:

Wandsworth Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)
2nd Floor Town Hall Extension
Wandsworth High Street
SW18 2PU
Telephone: 020 8871 6622
Email: mash@wandsworth.gov.uk
Outside of normal office hours (after 5pm weekdays or on
weekends): 020 8871 6000.

In an emergency contact the Police by calling 999.

You may also find some useful sites on our Links and web resources page.