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

To commemorate Runaway Prevention Month for the first time, partners of the RADAR project reached out to young people across Europe who have experience of running away or who have been at risk of running away. We’ve learnt a lot and have some strong understanding about how everyone can help – that includes you! 


Why you should listen to children and young people who run away... 

When children and young people run away it is a sign that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. By taking the time to listen to them you can help get to the root causes and guide them to possible solutions.


“Running away, you want to show people that you have a problem, it’s a way of communicating to other people.”


Change your perception of what running away means - it's a strong message that there is a problem in a child’s life.

It is vital to change negative perceptions of runaways as such misconceptions can have a drastic impact on children and young people and the support that they are given. By changing our perception of running away we can encourage children and young people to ask for help and guarantee more effective and targeted responses.

“Teachers didn’t see that I was struggling with drugs, maybe one or two teachers noticed that I was struggling with mental health but all they did was mention this to my family … they all put it down to an element of puberty and age.”

Rebuild trust between young runaways and the adults in their lives.

Without trust, relationships can be insignificant and easily broken. Runaway children and young people often refer to the lack of trusted relationships with the adults in their lives, which could have provided the support and guidance they needed.


“When we talked to the police once [about my violent father], they told us that they could arrest him for a few months or a year but that when he would be released he could harm us more…[it would be worse for us].”


Collective action within society is needed for the right change to happen.

Children and young people believe that they need to be made aware of their rights and of the support that is available to them so that they can become empowered to seek the right help in the right way. We need to work together within our communities to teach children and young people about their rights and the services that they can access.

“[At the time when I was running away] I didn’t know anything about children’s rights and what support was available to me…I think that [child rights] organisations need to go to schools and raise awareness of their existence [among children and young people].”

Use your social media platforms as a force of good!

    

Children and young people often run away because of stressful and challenging situations at home. One young runaway told us…


“When I ran away, I was hiding because I didn’t want anyone to find me. I was hiding in the neighbourhood; I was outside hiding where there were no people. I was more afraid when I was at home [than when I was outside alone]. I was ten years old and I thought that the most dangerous environment was my home, I thought that nothing would be more dangerous than being in my house.”


Help share their stories between 2-6 November via your social media platforms. We’ve even created some resources for you to use.

Are you a school, an alternative provision education or another educational institution?

Schools play an important role in the lives of children and within our society and children spend a significant part of their day in close contact with teachers and with other members of staff - for this reason, it is vital that teachers can recognise when a child is exhibiting signs of distress and able to effectively respond to them.



1) organise awareness raising workshops on the existence of local and national children’s organisations 2) introduce the role of counsellors and psychologists in schools from an early age and 3) train members of staff on child protection issues. 



The media can do its part too…

We all know the power of the media. It can shape the way people perceive society and the issues that inform it. It’s time to reshape the perception that society has about runaway children. It’s time to create a movement that allows us to shift away from the idea that running away is a behavioural problem or “age-related” problem and move it towards a more authentic understanding of running away as a message that something is wrong in the child’s life, that a child needs our help.

Start here, start now, by sharing our press release, using our resources, and spreading the correct message. For further media enquiries on the topic of young runaways contact Eugenia Miyashita, Project Officer for Runaways and Hotlines at Missing Children Europe.