“Listen” young runaways say!

Young runaways are campaigning this November to shed light on the issues they deal with. Running away is often seen as “problem behaviour”, but if you would “listen to us, you would know that running away, is a way for us to deal with problems that need addressing”, runaways say. 

“When I ran away from home I didn’t feel in danger, I was more afraid when I was at home. I was ten years old and I thought that nothing would be more dangerous than being in my house.” – Sam*, 25 year old – who ran away from home for the first time at age 10.

That is why, together with Missing Children Europe and members of the RADAR project, a group of young runaways are campaigning this November, during International Runaway Prevention Month, to focus on the issues of children and young people that run away.

Children and young people who run away from their homes are the largest group of missing children across Europe. In 2019, young runaways made up 54.5% of the missing children cases reported to the 116 000 European hotline for missing children. In that same year, 14% of those children were not found.

That is why Missing Children Europe and its members reached out to young people across Europe who have experience of (being at risk of) running away to listen to their stories. To help change the negative perceptions of runaways and to improve the support available to them, the campaign “Listen. Change. Protect.”, was developed by this group of young people.

Throughout November, the #ListenChangeProtect campaign will highlight the results of consultations held with children and young people who have experienced running away. The young people indicated that:

  • Listening to children and young people who run away enables adults to get to the root causes that led them to run away and to guide runaways to solutions for underlying problems.
  • Changing negative perceptions of running away is necessary to encourage children and young people to ask for help and guarantee more effective and targeted responses to their needs.
  • Re-building trust between young runaways and the adults in their lives is essential to be able to provide the support and guidance needed.
  • Ensuring collective action within society for the right change to happen.

The campaign will take place in Portugal, Greece, Belgium and Poland. Keep an eye out for our posters online or at a transport hub in the capital cities of these countries.

“Young runaways are often misunderstood and approached with prejudice. The young people we work ask that we really listen to their concerns and experiences and that we take them seriously as experts of their own lives. Running away is their answer to a problem they are dealing with, but that we may not be seeing. So, the first thing we need to do is listen. Only then can we build trust and find the best way to provide them with a safe environment and protection they deserve.”

Aagje Ieven, Secretary General at Missing Children Europe –


Note to editor:

RADAR (Running Away: Drivers – Awareness – Responses) project aims to reframe runaway behaviour as an indicator of underlying adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect, mental health problems, or living with a family member with mental health problems and/or addiction. The project will raise awareness on the topic of runaway children through research with the provision of advocacy tools, development of training and toolkits as well as a Mass Open Online Course for professionals in relevant fields.

Missing Children Europe is the European Federation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, representing 31 grassroot NGOs in 26 European countries. Missing Children Europe coordinates the network of missing children hotlines available through the 116 000 number. The hotline is currently active in 31 countries in Europe.

For more information contact Eugenia Miyashita