Children who go missing from home or care

Although the majority of children and young people who go missing return of their own accord,  or are found quickly, all children and young people who go missing irrespective of the amount of time that they are missing for, are at risk.

Children and young people whilst missing from home or care may experience physical and /or emotional abuse, additionally they are more likely to engage in risk taking and self-harming behaviour, they may find themselves sleeping rough,  engaging in offending behaviour in order to survive, whilst also feeling fear and loneliness. As a consequence of being missing, their education, family and social relationships and life chances often suffer.

Missing children and young people are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, violent crime, drug and alcohol misuse  and exploitation, including sexual exploitation. Significant evidence highlights that children and young people who go missing from home or care are at increased risk of being at risk of, or experiencing sexual exploitation and that missing, as either a cause or consequence, is a direct risk indicator of child sexual exploitation.

It is essential that all partner agencies act rigorously to reduce incidents of children going missing, to locate a missing child and ensure that they are returned to a safe environment, and work together to reduce the likelihood of future missing incidents.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is a key duty on local authorities. Children running away and going missing from home, care or view is a safeguarding issue. The DfE published new statutory guidance in January 2014 which primarily addressed the responsibilities on Local Authorities to children who run away or go missing from home care or view. 

Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care available from the DfE website


Definitions of missing

Absent: a child not at a place where they are expected or required to be.

Missing: a child reported as missing to the police by their family or carers.

Missing from care: a looked after child who is not at their placement or the place they are expected to be (e.g. school) and their whereabouts is not known.

Away from placement without authorisation: A looked after child whose whereabouts is known but who is not at their placement or place they are expected to be and the carer has concerns or the incident has been notified to the local authority or the police.

Safe & well check: A return interview can sometimes be confused with a Safe and Well check. Whilst both of these should be conducted when the missing child/young person is found they are not the same. A safe and well check is carried out by the police to establish whether the child has come to any harm whilst missing. This is in line with police duties to ‘protect life and investigate crime’.

Return interview: in depth interview with child (for further information click on the link below)


Child Exploitation Risk Identification Tool and practice guidance

This tool, along with the practice guidance, will help you decide whether a child or young person who is missing from home of care may also be at risk of exploitation.


Running away lesson plan for teaching staff and practitioners

Following a consultation with young people across West Yorkshire, we have developed 2 case study videos on the subject of running away. The videos show the stories of 2 teenagers and what happened when they were reported missing.

These videos, along with a lesson plan, are now available to practitioners who work with teenagers to explore the topic in a structured session.

The lesson plan can be used to deliver to a group of young people, or for a one to one basis.

For a copy of the lesson plan please email the LSCP Business Unit

Running away is not the answer - lesson plan for practitioners and teaching staff


Return Interview service

Local authorities have a statutory duty to offer all children and young people, who run away or who have been reported as missing, a Return Interview. In Leeds, Youth Service or the child's Social Worker, are responsible for talking to children and young people who have been reported as missing.


Children looked after placed in Leeds

Where a Child Looked After is placed in the area of another local authority (regardless of the type of placement), the Arrangements for Placement of Children (General) Regulations 1991 (Regulation 5) requires that notification is made by the placing authority to the local authority's children's social care service where the child is living.


Risk Vulnerability Management Planning

What to include as part of a Missing Vulnerability and Risk Management meeting and plan, where there are concerns with regards to a child repeatedly missing.


One Minute Guides