Next steps for support after a missing episode

About the issue

Children looked after in regulated children’s homes are more likely to go missing than from any other type of placement (Department for Education, 2014). We know that children looked after can be at increased risk of many of the harms known to be linked with going missing. Therefore, it is crucial for professionals to deliver the right support when they return.

Children and young people who Missing People consulted want carers, social workers, and the police to avoid making assumptions about them and why they might have gone missing. Professionals should try to understand their reasons, acknowledging that every child is different and will be facing different challenges. Further, when the police have contact with a missing child, they should act supportively and respectfully towards them.

“Sometimes, it depends on your experience with the police. Police need to think about how they approach young people. It makes a huge difference to how we react.”

Care experienced young person.

Prevention Interviews (Safe and Well Checks) and Return Home Interviews 

Return interviews should provide an opportunity to place the child’s needs and experiences at the centre of a conversation and gives them an opportunity to talk and to be listened to, and to have their feelings and experiences taken seriously following a missing incident.

Both the Prevention Interview and the Return Home Interview (RHI) provide the opportunity to inform case planning for wider strategic views and allow the child’s own thoughts to be heard.

Authorised Professional Practice (APP) guidance on delivering Prevention Interviews from the College of Policing can be found here.

Guidance across England, Scotland and Wales acknowledges the importance of completing an RHI with a child on their return from a missing incident. They should be in-depth and carried out by someone trained to deal with and follow up on any emerging issues. The interview should take place in a neutral setting where the child feels safe. If the Return Home Interview is refused, carers should be offered the opportunity to provide any information/intelligence that they are aware of.

The Return Home Interview

Going missing may be the first indication that there are problems or vulnerabilities for a child or young person. A Return Home Interview (RHI) is an opportunity to support the individual who has gone missing and identify any underlying causes, including any ongoing risk of harm and an opportunity to refer them to appropriate support services.

Below you can find a good practice template for what to cover and record from an RHI with a young person.

Example RHI template



Benefits of a Return Home Interview

  • Child feels supported
  • Opportunity for safeguarding & the identification of harm
  • Police intelligence
  • Opportunity to gather information for Children’s Social Care
  • Opportunity to signpost and refer the child to other agencies for support
  • Information can be gathered for safety planning
  • Opportunity to capture the missing child’s voice
  • Early Identification of risks
  • Detection of crime and the opportunity for disruption
  • Family Support
  • Prevent further missing episodes
  • Reduce risk
  • OFSTED inspections/DfE compliant

Effective Return Home Interviews 

During an RHI, it is crucial to try and establish what has happened before, during and after a missing episode.


Explore what happened to cause the child to go missing (think push and pull factors, including exploitation)


Explore what happened when the child went missing – where they went, who they were with, how did they travel?


Explore what has happened since the child has returned, how are they feeling? How did they get home? What support do they need?