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Children’s views on being reported missing from care

A new report

We are publishing a new report from a consultation project with looked after or care experienced young people: Children’s views on being reported missing from care “Don’t make me feel guilty or punish me, going missing might be how I cope when I can’t ask for help”.

Looked after children are disproportionately likely to be reported missing so, with the help of carers and social workers, we have begun to explore their views on what should happen and how best to support others who go missing. Young people should be at the centre of any policy or practice that affects their lives so it is vital these voices are heard.

What we found

Findings from these conversations include:

  • Young people want carers, social workers, and the police to avoid making assumptions about them and why they might have gone missing. These professionals should try to understand their reasons, acknowledging that every child is different and will be facing different challenges.
  • It is not inevitable that young people will go missing. Carers should genuinely attempt to mitigate any issues that may cause a young person to go missing. This should include building positive relationships with the young people in their care and getting to know them. This can also help to inform decision making if the child is not where they are supposed to be.
  • Young people do not want the police to automatically be contacted if they are not where they are supposed to be. They want decisions around contacting the police to be made based on their own unique situation, including any risks and the circumstances at that time. The police should not be contacted as a disciplinary measure. However, it is vital that they are contacted when a child is at risk of coming to harm.
  • When the police do have contact with a missing young person, they should act supportively and respectfully towards them.
  • Professionals should try to understand the unique challenges facing looked after children, including the conflict in wanting to be treated like other children but also needing their often complicated circumstances to be taken into account.

One young person told us:

“Talk to me, get to know me, don’t judge me, understand why I might go missing and help me manage those feelings and situations before it gets out of hand. Young people go missing for a reason, try to understand that. When we go don’t be angry or make us feel bad.”

Looked after children are often at increased risk of harm because of the challenges they have already faced in life. This means all professionals who are in touch with these young people must work together to support them and to listen to their views and needs.

Read it now

You can find a full list of published research reports here.

Read the new report