Today is International Missing Children’s Day, the occasion on which child rights and protection organisations around the world remember missing and abducted children and celebrate those who have been safely recovered. 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 cases reported to the 116 000 European hotline for missing children.
Set up by Missing Children Europe, the RADAR (Running Away: Drivers, Awareness and Responses) project aims to reframe runaway behaviour as an indicator of underlying adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect or living with a family member with mental health problems and/or addiction. The project will raise awareness on the phenomenon of runaway children through research.
Child Helpline International is a key partner, and we were delighted to recently contribute data on runaways to the RADAR project collected from our European child helpline members. Through this data, we were able to identify four recurring issues that our members had experienced:
- Child helplines, alongside missing children hotlines, play a pivotal role for children and young people contacting them at critical moments, such as when they run away.
- 75% of these contacts want to run away from something in their own homes.
- Around 50% of the time that a child or young person contacts a child helpline about running away, it is because they are facing violence in some form or other.
- Child helplines are almost twice as likely to take further action when a contact relates to running away, and apart from being in direct contact with children or young people themselves, they can also liaise between them and other organisations who can help.