Posted: 25 May 2020

International Missing Children's Day and Covid-19

Today is International Missing Children's Day, a chance to raise awareness of children and young people who go missing from home or care. 

During Covid-19, there is a real concern that children are going missing for longer periods of time, and this puts them more at risk of harm, abuse and exploitation.

Missing, Covid-19 and government restrictions

It is estimated that at least 100,000 children in the UK go missing from home or care each year. Going missing is a key indicator that something is wrong in a child’s life.  

These children are often vulnerable and may end up in dangerous situations and at increased risk of serious harm, including sexual or criminal exploitation, human trafficking and modern slavery.  

There are many reasons why children go missing from home or care

Some children feel forced out of their home or placement due to conflict, violence or abuse – often referred to as ‘push’ factors.

Other children may be encouraged to leave home by perpetrators of grooming and exploitation – often referred to as ‘pull factors’. Exploiters will often build an emotional connection with young people, gain their trust and encourage them to leave home often using methods of control and coercion.

For refugee and migrant children entering the country, there is even greater concern

Around 15% of all migrant children entering the country and 1 in 4 trafficked children go missing. Shockingly, in contrast to British children, many are never found.  

It is crucial for migrant children and young people that the very first contact with professionals is right. Our 72 hours guide helps guide conversation and safeguarding responses for these very vulnerable children.

Going missing during Covid-19 restrictions

At this moment in time, there is a real concern that children who are going missing, are missing for longer periods of time and being found further away from home. During this time children and young people are at increased risk of harm, abuse and exploitation.

Professionals have reported to us that parents and carers are also worried to report their child missing during covid-19 restrictions, due to fear of repercussions from police such as fines.

Despite the current context, the advice around reporting children missing remains the same. No matter how long a child has been missing, if you do not feel that they are safe or you have any information to suggest that they may be at risk of harm or exploitation, we advise that you report them missing and share your concerns with the police

Return home interviews

All young people who are reported missing from home or care are entitled to an Independent Return Home Interview when they return. This is a vital opportunity for young people to talk about what happened while they were missing and the triggers for the missing episode.  

During Covid-19, our practitioners are ensuring that all children referred to our Return Home Interview services receive this vital intervention. We have been adapting the way we work and have carried these out via telephone or video link.

If you are working with or supporting a child who goes missing, we encourage to advocate for the child’s right to a return home interview, if they would like it.

MORE ABOUT OUR WORK WITH MISSING CHILDREN

By Megan Hall
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