Posted: 23 February 2017

Our work on the frontline

Our project workers give intensive support to vulnerable children and young people through our services.

We work with them for as long as it takes, providing confidential and independent support and advice for all children and young people to help rebuild their lives and create a better future. 

Our work with missing young people goes beyond helping them return or finding a safe home to live. Often, children escape abuse and neglect in their own home and when they run away they face new dangers. Many of these young people have experienced sexual exploitation, substance misuse and face mental health issues that require greater care.

Karen - practitioner

A short while ago we sat down with Karen, one of our practitioners working with young girls that go missing, to gain a better understanding of her work.


Who are the young people you work with?

'Young girls and women who get referred to me will have had episodes of going missing, have experiences of alcohol and drugs, they will have no fixed abode (they call it ‘sofa surfing’), so really there is no continuity in their lifestyle at all.

My role is to find them a safe place, and to get them through a detox programme with other agencies, while addressing the vulnerability of sexual exploitation.'

Why do so many young people go missing?

'These young girls often go missing because of an argument with a male they are in a relationship with, or the girl recognises there is something wrong and they need to remove themselves.

They have no-one to trust because the male has broken down so many relationships that they don’t have a family member they can go to.

They could have felt safe and loved and wanted at first, but when it starts to break down and domestic violence or drugs are introduced, those young girls and women get scared.

They don’t know where to go and the only way to get out is to run away.'

Where do they go?

'They will often be at a friend’s house hiding out, or other young people who aren’t as fortunate will live on the streets, sleep in doorways, parks – they will sleep anywhere to escape what is going on.

They will find anywhere to get away from people who are harming them.'

What affect does this have on their emotional well-being and mental health?

'One of the girls I’m working with was going missing to escape men looking for her to sell drugs and do sex work for them.

She goes missing and stays away for as long as she feels necessary.

Her emotional health is not in a very good place and she requires medication, so she needs the support of other people, especially with so many men looking for her to help with drug deals or sex working.'

Why is the service so important to young people?

'Young people who are referred to me have reached a stage in their life where they are ready to let someone help them, to find different ways forward. I am not a social worker and a lot of young people have negative experiences growing up in care, so my service is different, because I treat them as an individual.

We work together to empower young women and girls with a voice to move forward and make a better life. I reassure them they didn’t do anything wrong, and it wasn’t a decision they made.'

Like all of our project workers, Karen provides a vital lifeline to many vulnerable young people in need of our help.

Find out more about our work with children that go missing from home

By Louise Jones - Digital team

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Scrapping the ‘absent’ category: a step towards a safer response for missing children

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