Every year in Britain, 100,000 children run away from home or care.

Group of teenagers smiling

What could possibly make them do such a thing? Often, children escape abuse and neglect in their own home. However, when they run away they face new dangers: they are at a high risk of becoming involved in crime and drugs or being sexually exploited.

Sophie’s story

Just after her 16th birthday and with difficulties at home, Sophie started going missing. She met a gang who got her to steal for them. After police found Sophie at the home of a man suspected of sexually assaulting women, she was referred to The Children’s Society. With support from her project worker Gemma, Sophie was able to turn her life around. 

‘Gemma has been fantastic. I was extremely lucky to find The Children’s Society at the time I did. I did see some scary things when I was sleeping rough and I think something terrible would have happened to me. I hate to think of it, but I’d be dead. Things are much better now.’

What would you forget to pack?

When we speak to children who have run away they tell us they forget to take living essentials with them.

What do you think is the one everyday item children who run away are the most likely to forget?

mobile phone
warm clothes
water bottle


Yes, that's right. When children run away they are most likely to forget their toothbrush. They sometimes leave home or care to get away from difficult and dangerous circumstances so they don't always remember to pack essentials to keep themselves healthy and safe.

Sorry, you're not quite right. The item most children forget to take with them when they run away is their toothbrush. Often when children run away they don't have access to basic essentials to keep themselves healthy and safe.

Find out if your area supports children who have run away

We believe that every child who runs away deserves to be protected.As part of our ‘Make Runaways Safe’ campaign, children who had run away from home told us how they would have liked to have been helped. They created the Runaways’ Charter – guidelines for councils and agencies for protecting others like them.

We asked councils across England to sign up to the Runaways Charter. More than 40 local authorities did and committed to making changes to protect young people who run away from home. This guidance means that all councils have to conduct ‘return interviews’ with children when they come home to give them the support they need. This is an incredible tool for protecting children who run away and reduces the chance of them running away again.

To find whether your council signed the Runaways' Charter, click any area on the map. A small pop-up window should appear with the name of the council and a notice about whether your council has signed the charter.