My child is missing / has run away

Children run away for a number of reasons, on most occasions they return home safely. Every situation is different and there are no set rules about when a child should be considered missing.

However, if you have any doubts about whether to contact the police formally to report a child missing, the police will be happy to discuss your concerns and offer advice about what to do.

If your child does not return home when you expect them to and you are worried, in the first instance you should try and find out where they are. Contact relatives or friends to see if they have seen them or know where they are. You should also search your property and local area to see if you can locate them.  You should also:

  • Try to contact them directly via mobile phone, text or social networking sites (such as Whats App, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Check their bedroom and any other place where your child might be within the house or building
  • Check the garden, garage, sheds, grounds and surrounding area
  • Check with their friends, school, neighbours, relatives, work or anyone else who may have any suggestions about where they might be. Ask them to tell you immediately if they hear from the missing person.

However, if your child is missing or has run away from home, you must contact the police. Dial 999 in an emergency situation or call your local police force immediately on 101.  

If you cannot locate your child following a telephone and physical search then you should report them missing to the police by dialling 101. You do not have to wait 24 hours before reporting them missing.

You will need to provide the following information: 

Child’s name

• Date of birth

• When, where the child was last seen

• Who they were with

• What he or she was wearing and a description

• Recent photograph

• Any medical history or complications

• The circumstances of when they went missing.

What to do if you think your child is at risk of running away

Children who run away come from all backgrounds. There may be a range of circumstances children feel they can only escape by running away – bullying, family breakdown, violence, abuse or neglect.

With a proportion of missing children potentially being sexually exploited, it is important we all do everything we can to prevent this, and ensure children and young people know where to turn if they feel they have no choice but to go missing. If you are concerned that your child may be vulnerable to Child Sexual Exploitation, you can read more about CSE here.

If you have concerns your child may be at risk of running away, talk to them. It may not be easy, but reaching out and letting them know that they have a choice can be an important step in preventing them from running away. Some useful tips on speaking to children about running away can be found online at railwaychildren website.

Help your child understand running away is never the answer to any problems they face. Together, you might want to watch and discuss the Thinkuknow film ‘My Choice’, which looks at some of the issues that may lead to a young person running away. It also signposts sources of help and support including Missing People’s Runaway Helpline available on 116 000.

Missing Chats

The priority for all agencies is to ensure that children and young people who live in Essex are safe. Once your child has been returned home, the police will ensure that they are safe and well, and haven’t been harmed while they were missing.

In addition, it is important that they are given an opportunity to talk about their experience with someone who is independent. Missing Chats provide an opportunity to place the child’s needs and experiences at the centre, gives them an opportunity to talk and to be listened to, and to have their feelings and experiences taken seriously.  Children who go missing will receive this offer via a letter, a phone call or their social worker (if already involved with the family). 

Further help and services

The Children's Society have developed a range of resources to help understand how to support vulnerable young people, in particular those who go missing. There are guides for Parents and carers and Children and young people.The resources are available on the Children's Society website.

Missing People: The ‘Turn2 Directory’ can put you in touch with support services in your area. You can find this online or call them for free on 116 000.

Local Police: Call 101 for your local police force.

Specialist advice:

Missing People: Charity offer 24 hour confidential support, advice and practical help if you are affected by a child going missing from home. You can contact them for free on 116 000, or email 116000@missingpeople.org.uk

The UK Missing Persons Bureau website also has a range of fact sheets available which contain practical advice and information:

Parentline: Provides a confidential advice and listening service for parents that provides help and support in all aspects of family life. You can call on 0808 800 2222, email, or have a live online chat with a trained support worker.

NSPCC: Provides a helpline for adults who are concerned about the safety or welfare of a child. You can also call them on 0808 800 5000.

PACE:  Parents against Child Sexual Exploitation:  Pace work alongside parents and carers of children –who are, or are at risk of being sexually exploited by perpetrators external to the family.  National Telephone Support - 0113 240 3040.

ChildLine is also available for children and young people to talk to, whatever their worry. Counsellors are available 24 hours a day by calling for free on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk