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:
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 and 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.
Please note, if you haven't conducted any enquiries yourselves (called the child’s mobile, called friends etc) or you believe you know where your child is, the police may ask you to call back once these tasks have been completed, unless there is an immediate risk.
If you feel you know where the child may be but cannot leave the house to see if they are there, this must be explained to the police, so they can consider the context in their decision making.
If there is felt to be an immediate risk of danger then this must be reported on 999.
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.
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).
Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. They are there for people who are anxious, stressed, depressed, suicidal or overwhelmed and who need immediate support.
The Missing People helpline 116000 is also Free and confidential. The helpline is open 7 days per week, between 9am and 11pm. If you are missing, thinking of going missing, or someone you know is missing, we're here for you. You can call or text us, even if you have no credit on your mobile.