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Why do Children in Care Run Away From Home?

With record numbers of children going missing from care, it's important that we understand the reasons and the triggers behind children running away. 

Through interviews with thousands of young people, NYAS has discovered that a breakdown in communication between young people and care providers is the leading cause for children in care going missing. Urgent action is needed to tackle this problem and to safeguard vulnerable young people in care.

Our campaign, Missing the Point, calls on local councils to listen to and take seriously the wishes and feelings of children in their care in order to reduce the risk of them going missing.

In Wales, NYAS Cymru hosts the Missing the Point Steering Group, which works together to share best practice and tackle the issue of missing children in Wales.

Care Experienced Children Missing From Home: The Facts

In order to limit the amount of children who go missing from home within the care system it is critical that local authorities, as corporate parents, understand the reasons why their young people run away from home. 

During our research in preparation for this campaign, NYAS discovered that:

  • Three quarters (75%) of NYAS Return Interviews found ‘breakdown in communication’ to be a primary reason for a child going missing.
  • Of the 11,530 care experienced young people that went missing in 2018, each went missing an average of 6.1 times. When an independent NYAS return interview was offered, this number dropped to an average of 2.8.
  • From 2015 - 2018, the number of children going missing from ‘out of area’ homes has more than doubled.
  • The number of children living ‘out of area’ continues to rise, with 64% of all young people living in children’s homes now living out of borough. This is up from 46% in 2012.

It's Time to Stop Missing the Point

In order to limit the amount of care experienced children missing from home, NYAS is calling for changes to government and local council policies. We hope that this will reduce the risk of harm to children that run away from home during their time in care. 

Our Missing the Point campaign includes three key recommendations: 

  1. No child is forced to live ‘out of area’ unless it is in their best interests. It is also essential that their wishes and feelings have been considered before this move occurs.

  2. No child is criminalised as a result of being a victim of child criminal exploitation, such as county lines.

  3. After going missing, every child is entitled to an independent return interview. This interview must be conducted by someone who is not employed by the local authority.

Missing the Point Report: Wales

You can read our Missing the Point Report for Wales to explore our findings so far. NYAS Cymru undertook this research in partnership with The Children’s Society

This report from 2020 explores and identifies opportunities to reduce the links between care experienced young people, serious crime, missing episodes and exploitation. The report is available to read in both English and Welsh.

Additional Children Missing from Home Research for Parliament

In April 2019, NYAS responded to an inquiry from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Runaway and Missing Children and Adults. 

Thanks to NYAS’ return interview service which run across England and Wales, we had a range of relevant data to contribute to this inquiry. We produced a full report examining ‘out of area’ care placements for looked after children and young people. Within this document, we evidenced the scale and nature of the issues facing care experienced young people who go missing,

We were also able to connect directly with care experienced children and young people during this inquiry. This ensured that the inquiry featured a range of voices, including the first hand experiences of the children and young people this inquiry was aiming to help.

As always, we believe that any research or decision about care experienced young people should include them in the conversation.  

You can explore NYAS’ full range of current campaigns, as well as our previous campaigns, to see the impact our efforts are having on policy and legislation for children and young people in care across England and Wales.

If you want to support our campaigning efforts, or have an experience you want to share with us, feel free to get in touch with our friendly NYAS team. 

Still Have Questions?

If you have further questions about this campaign, please get in touch with our policy and research department, and they'll be happy to help.

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