Skip to main content

Getting to the root of why young people run away

Thousands of young people run away from home every year. Most come back. Some run away again. Our practitioners talk to these young people to try understand the reasons they run away. Lisa works with young people that go missing. Here she shares with us what Return Home Interviews are and gives an example of work she has done with a young person.

Published:

More than just a conversation

Girl playing basketball

More than just a conversation

When a child goes missing, it should never be treated lightly. They might be scared or upset. It is important to get to the bottom of why they ran away. That is where the Return Home Interview comes in. 

Lisa explains ‘during the interview we look at why they've gone missing in the first place. We try to spot any push and pull factors that might have led to them going missing, what’s happened while they've been missing and any concerns they might have had.’ 

Asking the right questions 

No one case is the same. There is no silver bullet to getting a young person to open up. What works for one young person might not work at all for another. Lisa sees young people from all walks of life. 

‘It's a whole plethora of young people with a variety of things.’ 

You don't know what you're walking in to until you get there.

‘It's hard to define a successful Return Home Interview. There are some where it took a while to engage them in an interview at all, but once they did, there was quite a lot of response.’ 

boy school uniform smiling

What to do if your child goes missing

If you are worried about your child running away, don't worry, you are not alone. We have put together some advice so you know what to do.

A chance to be heard

A chance to be heard

Young people run away for many different reasons. Sometimes dealing with anxiety can get too much. The pandemic has played a big part in heightening this. Some run away as a result of trauma. It can be a coping mechanism when they feel like they’ve lost control or don’t belong. 

‘I had a young person, who’d just turned 13, just before the pandemic. They had quite a significant missing episode where they travelled a long way by train to meet someone they met online. There was quite a high risk of sexual exploitation.’

Boy speaks with therapist

Several attempts

‘It took several attempted contacts to get to see her, but it was one of the ones that because of the risks it really needed to be pursued.’ 

'We had a really good conversation. She was able to say what was on her mind and open up. But then she had a similar missing episode within a couple of weeks. We had another talk and she opned up again. I think she just needed someone to listen to her’ 

‘She said she felt unsafe. The second time she just wandered around the streets and said she had about 50 men come up to her offering her a place to stay, offering her alcohol and drugs, and she recognised that she shouldn't take that up.’ 

The relationship you can build through Return Home Interviews is invaluable.

‘Particularly for someone like her who just needed that opportunity and space to talk’ 

‘I’ve been reflecting on my role a lot and it has made me realise the power of the relationships I’ve built through the interviews. I can see someone 18 months on and the rapport is just back straight away. You know their story. You are trustworthy. So, if they come back in, there's a safety net of that previous relationship, which is really positive.