Advice for parents and carers

Not all young people who go missing are reported missing. This leaves them vulnerable to abuse. Trust your instincts – if you are worried your child is at risk, contact the police. ( Read more advice and info for parents.)

MYTHBUSTER: Not all children who are at risk from child sexual exploitation live in children’s homes or foster care – grooming and exploitation can take place in a variety of circumstances.

If you’re worried that your child might be thinking about running away, try taking the following steps recommended by The Children’s Society:

  • Talk to your children openly and honestly
  • Listen to them when they talk about their concerns, feelings and difficulties
  • Respect their emotional responses in every situation
  • Encourage them to succeed and work through their differences and struggles
  • Support your child’s need to gain independence and develop appropriate relationships with others
  • Create opportunities for them to learn how to make positive decisions in their lives
  • Teach your children to be accountable for their actions
  • Protect them from feelings of loneliness and isolation
  • Provide a place of safety for your children, both emotionally and physically
  • Defend them openly against harassment or verbal abuse of any kind
  • Make your home a place of trust and support that meets their needs

Reporting someone missing

Before contacting the police:

  • Check the bedroom and any other place where your child might be in the house or building.
  • Check the surrounding area – gardens, sheds, garages etc.
  • Check with your child’s friends, school, work, neighbours, relatives or anyone else who may know where they are. Ask them to tell you straight away if they hear from your child.
  • Try to get hold of your child by phone, text or social networking sites such as Snapchat and Facebook.

If you know where your child is and you are concerned for their safety (e.g. they are at a place where you suspect criminal activity is taking place) you can ask the police to carry out a welfare check to make sure they are safe.

To report your child missing, call the police on 999 or 101, or contact your neighbourhood policing team. You don’t have to wait 24 hours, you can report your child missing straight away.

When they come home

Thankfully, most children who run away return of their own accord. However this doesn’t mean they haven’t been put at risk from harm while they were away.

It also doesn’t mean that they won’t go missing or run away again.

When they return:

  • Contact the police if you suspect that a crime has been committed against your child.
  • Show your child that you are happy to have them back home. Try to stay calm, rather than get angry, tell them that you love them and will help them solve any problems they have.

Help and advice


A young person speaks about their experiences of going missing from home.

A video created by a group of young people from Talkshop in Trafford, an advice and information centre for young people, to raise awareness of young people who go missing, the risks that come with it and the strong link between going missing and child sexual exploitation. The video is based on real experiences of young people from Trafford.

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