Q&A about running away from home with experts Andy McCullough & Charlie Hedges. Aviva will donate £2 to charity Railway Children for every post - CLOSED

(113 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 19-Nov-12 12:25:42

You may have seen last month that the charity Railway Children is working with Aviva to provide help and support to children who have run away from home, or are at risk of doing so. It's estimated that one child runs away from home or care every five minutes in the UK. They've helped us to build some information on the reasons why children run away and how to spot the warning signs.

We were astounded by your response, with many of you sharing very personal stories and experiences. So many people have been touched by this issue and by sharing your thoughts, you have already helped us raise £18,422 for Railway Children.

Your comments have also raised lots of questions, so to answer everything and anything you'd like to ask - but never previously knew who to go to - about the topic of running away from home, we have invited the following experts to answer your questions:

·         Andy McCullough Head of UK Policy & Public Affairs at Railway Children
·         Charlie Hedges from CEOP, an organisation that deals with child exploitation and online protection

For every (proper & real!) question submitted, Aviva will donate £2 to Railway Children. You can post a maximum of three questions on the thread. Aviva will donate up to £100,000 by the end of 2012 as part of the Mumsnet campaign.

£2 will also be donated for everyone who 'likes' and recommends this thread on Facebook (by clicking 'Recommend' at the top) and if you 'like' any of the articles here

Do please join in, have your questions answered and help that money stack up!

Send your questions for the experts before Sunday 25th November and we'll link to their answers to up to 20 questions from this page on Monday 10th December.

What is the biggest reason children give for running away from home?

What percentage of reported runaways are found safely ?

Some I know are found, but choose not to go back home, how do parents deal with that, & who has the dubious pleasure of giving them that news?

<£6 in the pot please!> grin

hanahsaunt Mon 19-Nov-12 19:36:32

Once children are back with their family, what ongoing support is available to both parties to work towards it not happening again? Do you have family mediators to work with? When is a runaway not a runaway (thinking of the recent case in Yorkshire where it was assumed the boy had run away) - how do the authorities decide?

Hulababy Mon 19-Nov-12 19:42:29

What is the average age of a runaway child?
Is it more likely to be girls or boys?
What are the main reasons children give for running away?

missymoomoomee Mon 19-Nov-12 19:45:43

Do all children that run away automatically get returned to their families?

Do children have people they can talk to after they have returned home and would it be better to have some sort of confidential support in schools so the children can speak to them before they get as far as running away?

How many cases of children running away have people helping them in some way and what are the penalties for knowingly helping?

Punkatheart Mon 19-Nov-12 19:46:34

What outside facilities (sleeping, feeding) are available for those children on the streets?

What can be done to protect children against predators on the streets?

I have seen some amazing projects in the USA - is there anything we can learn from them?

wilbur Mon 19-Nov-12 19:53:21

What happens to children of divorced parents where the child runs away to the non-resident parent? Are they automitcially returned to the resident parent, or is there rooom for negotation in this case?

purplemonstermum Mon 19-Nov-12 20:05:52

what percentage of children who run away have shown or go on to develop other problems e.g. drink/drug abuse, self harm etc? In other words is running away normally an early warning sign of (future) distress or something people only do after having tried several other strategies to manage existing problems?

Is running away usually planned in advance or a spontaneous last-minute idea? And if it can be both, what are the predictors of each type?

MaryBS Mon 19-Nov-12 20:07:17

How can you best help someone whose child has run away and is still missing?

lisad123 Mon 19-Nov-12 20:11:50

Can more be done to found missing children eg faces on milk, news ect, it seems the media is choosey about who they highlight sad

How many "safe places" are there for young runaways? Not adult shared ones, and not one who will force them to go home?

aristocat Mon 19-Nov-12 20:18:44

How long before a missing child is classed as a runaway?

And how can we help the children and the families more?

DizzyHoneyBee Mon 19-Nov-12 20:26:02

What reasons do children give for running away?
Where do children go?

notanotter Mon 19-Nov-12 20:28:20

Who should one turn to if one's child runs away?

Should the police be a last resort?

If the child has run away once will the police be less likely to react second or subsequent times?

What percentage of children voluntarily return home?. What support is there to help them make contact with their families? For children who don't want to return home, what options or support is available to them? How do they access support if they are living on the street? What practical support (ie food, clothing, healthcare) is available to runaway children?

How can runaway children on the streets be helped?

How old does a child have to be before you stop returning them home each time they run away?

CelstialNavigation Mon 19-Nov-12 20:31:56

I'm thinking about how hard it is for a child to verbalise and disclose abuse within their family.

How is a child's situation assessed before they are returned to their family and what support is put in place for the child after running away and being returned, when the reason for their leaving home is unknown?

gazzalw Mon 19-Nov-12 20:42:14

What are the outcomes for persistent runaways? And what % 'disappear'?

Is there any way we can set up shelters for teen runaways, not quite care homes but more supported living facilities where kids can access education, healthcare and benefits to allow them to become independent adults?

What can be done to make the authorities take the problem more seriously?

Is there any support the children can access when on the streets, such as sexual health clinics, food, hostels etc?

NigellasGuest Mon 19-Nov-12 20:48:46

What if any are the warning signs that a child may be planning to run away?

Are children who are planning to run away more likely to confide in a friend about their plans, or to tell no one - or is there no particular trend?

Do most runaway children run away repeatedly or is it ever the case that a child runs away just the once and that there is a positive resolution?

ScorpionQueen Mon 19-Nov-12 20:55:41

Where can runaways go? By this I mean are there shelters or facilities? Can they hand themselves in to some kind of foster care?

Where would the parents of a runaway child turn for help finding them? Would mediation be made available to support communication and (hopefully) enable the child to return home?

What can be done in schools and within families to reduce the number of runaways? Is there family support available before a family reaches crisis point? I imagine anything vaguely government funded has been done away with, although I would be happy (and surprised) to be corrected.

M44 Mon 19-Nov-12 20:59:37

1) HOw many runaway children end up being groomed and used and abused in the sex industry?
2) Can we engage more with large companies eg Innocent....to advertise and make people aware of 'lost'/missing children?
3)What support is there for to enable children to 'come home'....ie safe spaces to meet with parents without being put under massive amount of pressure by the police/social services to answer the many questions that do, at the end of the day need asking......

leslie787 Mon 19-Nov-12 21:13:12

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

insancerre Mon 19-Nov-12 21:17:39

Is running away from home somethig that all children consider at some point?

What percentage of children actually go through with it?

What is the most likely age for a child to run away from home?

Mouseface Mon 19-Nov-12 21:23:17

I'm sorry if these have been asked, I'm just replying to my email from MNHQ blush

1) - If a child has run away from a carer role, is there support in place to help relieve that child of their role?

2) - If a child runs away regularly, is there a 'permanent' marker on them/their family for life and if so, would that affect their future families?

As in, if they then had children, would it be assumed that the same traits would follow and is there anything like this in place now, or are there plans to be.

I hope that doesn't come across as Big Brother dictates, or as if they (runaways) don't deserve to have families, that's not what I mean at all. smile

supermam Mon 19-Nov-12 21:34:08

Is the divide between urban and rural areas equal in the runaways statistics?

Do local authorities have specific social workers who help runaways?

Does the organisation visit schools to publicise its work?

KTK9 Mon 19-Nov-12 21:35:54

I too would be interested in what sort of age a child runs away and also, if a child has spoken about running away, are they more likely to do it.

As a parent, how much should we discuss with children about running away and the help that is out there for them? If it is discussed is there any research to say this helps them not to, or the opposite?

freakydeaky Mon 19-Nov-12 22:06:09

What % of runaway children tell someone (ie a friend) that they're planning to run away before they actually do it?

How many of these children 'run away' to a friend's house, and how best can the parent of the friend help them?

Would it be helpful to have educational talks in schools from the experts?

Whojamaflip Mon 19-Nov-12 22:38:46

Is there any sort of organisation that a child could turn to before they run away? Or somewhere they could go to instead of landing on the streets? (along the lines of refuge for those in dv situations)

Who should we report concerns to if we know of a child who has "threatened" to run away - is it best to tell a carer or is an independent person better?

At what point does a child that maybe just late home become classed as a runaway?

Mograt Mon 19-Nov-12 23:12:21

Are the statistics on runaways collated nationally and desseminated down to all the relevant groups and charities so that they can be put to best use for supporting runaways, potential runaways and their families?

Do the statistics include data on runaways by different ethnic groups and religions and are there specific support networks in place to care for these different groups with adequate knowledge and expertise to offer appropriate advice?

What work is being done to empower local communities to provide support services and groups to nurture their young people and identify problems which may lead to runaways?

notcitrus Tue 20-Nov-12 04:25:33

Where can a child who has or is thinking if running away seek confidential help?
Can any child under 16 be forced to return home by the police/social workers?
If so, where can they seek help if they are desperate not to go home?

riveroise Tue 20-Nov-12 04:50:40

Proportionally, are children that are in local authority care, more likely to run away then children living with their families?

Would a child who ran back to their families from care be considered a "runaway"?

Additionally, do children who live with a step parent more likely to run away then those not living with a step-parent?

flow4 Tue 20-Nov-12 07:29:32

I'm fretting slightly, because people are posting 3 questions at a time, and MNHQ said £2 per post in their headline... confused

flow4 Tue 20-Nov-12 07:38:37

I am thinking there may be two types of runaway: young people who are desperate to escape a home life they can't stand, and young people who go because they are angry about something - maybe something they have not been allowed to do - but who always intend to go home in the end. They are equally vulnerable, but may need different responses.

Can agencies tell these motives apart, and do they work differently with YP and families depending on what they find?

flow4 Tue 20-Nov-12 07:44:19

If a young person doesn't come home at night, at what point should a parent start to panic?

flow4 Tue 20-Nov-12 07:53:46

What support is there for parents whose children have run away, and how do they find it?

ILoveAFullFridge Tue 20-Nov-12 08:15:49

What happens if a runaway child is found, but refuses to give their name, or to be returned home?

mymonkey Tue 20-Nov-12 09:01:35

Are there any things to look out for that indicate a child may be planning to run away?

Who should a parent contact if they suspect that their child may be planning to run away?

Is there any support / guidelines / intervention available to help prevent the running away in the first place?

ILoveAFullFridge Tue 20-Nov-12 09:28:47

If a child I know - a friend's child, or a friend of my child - runs away and comes to me, and they refuse to let me call their parents, what should I do?

Are my responsibilities towards that child different to what they would be if they had come to me with their parents' knowledge?

GooseyLoosey Tue 20-Nov-12 10:22:50

What outcomes do runaways want? Do they want to return to a better home environment, an indendant life or an alternative family environment? What assistance is or should be available to both them and their families to help achieve reasonable outcomes?

flow4 Tue 20-Nov-12 10:33:20

That's a good question, Fridge smile

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 20-Nov-12 11:55:35


I'm fretting slightly, because people are posting 3 questions at a time, and MNHQ said £2 per post in their headline... confused

Sorry this is a bit confusing. We're going to contact Aviva about this later today but for now, can you all please just post one question per post but you can post up to three questions each.

flow4 Tue 20-Nov-12 12:01:14

There are about 30 posts in which people have posted 3 questions. sad I hope Aviva do the decent thing and donate per question not per post.

jennybee1408 Tue 20-Nov-12 12:48:23

Who decides if a child is a runaway - how is this determined

gloriafloria Tue 20-Nov-12 18:06:14

What is the average length of time a runaway child is away from their home before returning?

gloriafloria Tue 20-Nov-12 18:07:10

What is the most commone reason that children who have previously run away give for why they felt they had to run away?

gloriafloria Tue 20-Nov-12 18:09:15

Sorry common

gloriafloria Tue 20-Nov-12 18:11:22

Is it a good idea to bring up the subject of running away to your children to give them information regarding other choices available to them if they are in trouble?

Worley Tue 20-Nov-12 18:25:23

do children who run away confide in a friend before they go? apart from family / personal reasons do they go because of pressure from their friends encouraging them to go? do friends make a pact to run away together?

SecrectFarleysNibbler Tue 20-Nov-12 19:27:07

How are parents and families of these children supported?

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 21-Nov-12 10:46:59

Just to update you, we've been in touch with Aviva who can see that there may have been some confusion with their pledge, and usually it would be £2 for each individual post (and each mumsnetter can make a maximum of 3 posts). However, they are happy to donate £2 per question for the questions submitted so far. Do keep them coming...

noidles Wed 21-Nov-12 10:52:15

I'm really excited about this campaign, and really pleased to see a company like Aviva involved in this, and pledging to donate £2 for every time someone gets involved in a campaign. What better way to raise awareness really and get people talking, when there's a quick and easy way for people to feel they've made a contribution and helped.

Anyway, my first question is to Andy: considering that there are a huge number of wide ranging reasons that a child might run away, there can be no 'one size fits all' approach to dealing with the issue of child/teen runaways and you must feel as though there's a million and one things that the government could do to help. What are the main solutions you're trying to lobby the government with at the moment? Does it focus more on prevention, or is more about support and rehabilitation once a child has run away? If a child has a challenging background, in some ways it might be easier to anticipate that they might consider running away, but it must be hard to anticipate it if a child appears to be from a nice cosy middle class perfect world. But I could be completely wrong!

noidles Wed 21-Nov-12 11:00:29

My second question is for Charlie: as your organisation deals with child protection and online protection, what connection is there to teenagers/children running away and their online activities. What can be done to help parents? It's hard to know what your teens are doing online when people are constantly connected to the internet now through their phones, tablet computers, laptops, etc. You want to balance protecting your teen, and also giving them the freedom to feel as though you trust them.

kathylilly23 Wed 21-Nov-12 11:01:34

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Flow4 well done for spotting that & MNHQ for clarifying the details.

Thank you Aviva for being generous. grin

Elfontheshelfiswatchingyou Wed 21-Nov-12 12:01:35

That is incredibly generous odf Aviva and a real chance for Mumnsnetters to get together and make this thread huge. smile

crazygracieuk Wed 21-Nov-12 12:05:35

One of my children threatens to run away when angry. How do I know if he means it?

Where do children who run away go?

Mograt Wed 21-Nov-12 13:33:27

Excellent. I was one of the three in one posters. Thanks Aviva!

MammyCollins Wed 21-Nov-12 16:29:06

I'd like to know how many children who do 'runaway' are from care. How many from childrens homes and how many from foster parents?


flow4 Wed 21-Nov-12 21:09:21

smile Great! Nice one, Aviva!

RachelMumsnet can you just confirm please: should people ask just ONE question per post from now on?

yellowdomino Wed 21-Nov-12 21:36:55

Are the Railway Children involved with or aware of the issue of trafficked children going missing from care (particularly vulnerable Vietnamese kids)?

If so, how do you propose to address the shoddy treatment they get in comparison to other LAC/ non-migrant children? Is there anything those of us working in related fields can do to help?

flow4 Thu 22-Nov-12 07:48:14

I've had my 3 questions, so I'm just bumping smile

flow4 Thu 22-Nov-12 07:55:39

Oops, I didn't need to bump, did I, cos this thread is 'pinned' to the top of the board, isn't it? blush

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 22-Nov-12 14:45:36


smile Great! Nice one, Aviva!

RachelMumsnet can you just confirm please: should people ask just ONE question per post from now on?

Hello, I'm not RachelMumsnet but I do know the answer: yes, one question per post please.

But you can post up to three times (so 3 x £2 raised from Aviva for the Railway Children smile)

MrsHoarder Thu 22-Nov-12 15:08:32

How can children be encouraged to disclose if they think a friend us intending to run away?

Would it be better to ensure secondary age children know about safe places (where they exist) to give them space without them being at risk from gangs/pimps etc?

apismalifica Thu 22-Nov-12 15:11:50

If one of my children came home with a friend who says they have 'run away from home' what should I do? Guess it depends on all sorts of issues like the age, family circumstances (which I may or may not know about) etc, but as a caring adult who is concerned for the child and their family, what should I do? Assume I would try and find out what the problem is first, but must I tell the parents immediately? What about the child wishes if they don't want me to contact their parents?

Is there extra support for LGBT runaways?

How can we ensure that the reasons for running away are fixed before returning children?

Smudge588 Thu 22-Nov-12 18:04:48

How do you find a child who has run away?

EdgarAllanPond Thu 22-Nov-12 18:18:08

if a child subject to a custody dispute runs away, how is that handled by the family court?

RedPenny Thu 22-Nov-12 19:57:49

If a child/young person has declared that they have been tempted to run away what help/support can they be offered currently?

Can they access any help/support themselves or can their parent/carer assist them in accessing any help/support?

Should we be teaching children/young people how to keep themselves safe if they do run away?

jimmenycricket Thu 22-Nov-12 20:08:06

What exactly do the police do when a child is reported missing? And what other agencies are involved?

pamelat Thu 22-Nov-12 20:15:55

My cousin and I "ran away" as teenagers

I have and had a loving and happy family life, but a rubbish boyfriend and complicated peer group of friends.

To this day I couldn't really justify why we did it. We were immature, naive and perhaps attention seeking?

We didn't get far as a few hours later trying to catch a train the station staff called the police in to fetch us, thank god!

Obviously we were lucky and I'm not saying that we were typical of most runaways, the ones with real problems to escape from, but what is the definition of a runaway? Were we it, and if so what proportion of runaways are merely naive teenagers seeking solutions to angst?

£4 please in the pot?

Maryz Thu 22-Nov-12 23:10:42

Is there any way to distinguish between kids who are running away because their home life is intolerable, and those who are running away because they are rebelling against reasonable parental rules?

They need very different treatment, imo.

Maryz Thu 22-Nov-12 23:11:32

I would like to see help in place for the parents of "habitual runaways", rather than those parents left to cope alone.

Maryz Thu 22-Nov-12 23:13:23

What happens to children between the awkward ages of 16 and 18, when they are too old for child services, but aren't actually adults.

And what about vulnerable 18 year olds? My son has AS - but the minute he turned 18 I lost all rights to have any input into what he does. I wasn't even notified the last time he was arrested sad

APombearsPicnic Fri 23-Nov-12 13:47:20

When is a child who leaves home and goes to a relatives or friends house classed as a 'Runaway'?

APombearsPicnic Fri 23-Nov-12 13:49:47

What is the definition of a Runaway?

APombearsPicnic Fri 23-Nov-12 13:50:52

When are Runaway children reported to the police for help finding them?

APombearsPicnic Fri 23-Nov-12 13:52:36

Sorry if the questions I asked have already been asked, but it is £6 for a very good cause! smile

Isitme1 Fri 23-Nov-12 15:25:54

What impact does a runaway child have on firstly the parents? The other children?

Are there any areas in the uk which have a higher percentage of runaways or is it almost equal all round?

What type of support has been set up for children who are most likely to run?

Isitme1 Fri 23-Nov-12 15:26:38

Do you make that £6 or £8???

afussyphase Fri 23-Nov-12 21:25:35

What are the main reasons children state for running away?

afussyphase Fri 23-Nov-12 21:25:50

Where do they think they are going to go?

afussyphase Fri 23-Nov-12 21:26:03

And where do they actually go - what happens next?

GetKnitted Sat 24-Nov-12 21:35:43

If you encounter a child that has run away from home what is the best course of action?

Would the same be true if they were a stranger or someone you knew?

What if they were somewhere that you consider safe?

AnAirOfHopeForSnow Sun 25-Nov-12 16:32:04

Do all runaways go live on the street? Or do they live with family or friends? Is that still classed as runaways?

What is the age of the youngest runaway?

Do all runaway children that are found get a social worker or support worker?

ICutMyFootOnOccamsRazor Sun 25-Nov-12 16:37:25

How quickly are runaway children usually returned home?

Is there are critical period after which they are usually gone for good?

Eastpoint Sun 25-Nov-12 23:21:32

Do most of them go to big cities? If they are in major cities where do they go?

noidles Mon 26-Nov-12 09:50:28

I know here you've got some content about the warning signs that a child might run away, but how typical is this of all the children that you see? Do all runaways have these problems?

knowmebetterman Mon 26-Nov-12 09:59:41

Does the age of a runaway child make a difference in the reasons they give for running away? Like if a teen runs away is their reason different to a 10 year old?

knowmebetterman Mon 26-Nov-12 10:00:07

What is the average age of a runaway and is it usually girls or boys?

knowmebetterman Mon 26-Nov-12 10:04:02

Sorry if this has been asked before, but what should you do if you come across or know of a child that has run away is there any advice you can offer?

happyknickers Mon 26-Nov-12 10:13:42

When a child runs away and gets found, what usually happens? Do they get sent straight back to their family, or are they taken away? How do you decide what happens to them?

happyknickers Mon 26-Nov-12 10:21:00

Are there any studies that say what happens to runaways when they are adult - is there a higher percentage of mental illness, crime or poverty in previous runaways? I presume it does all depend on what happens to them and if they get help.

cm22v077 Mon 26-Nov-12 10:21:08

Sorry if these have been asked before, thanks for coming to Mumsnet.

1) How do people cope with the aftermath of one of their children running away? Must be so painful to pretend everything is fine when you're petrified your child might run away again- is there much support available?

cm22v077 Mon 26-Nov-12 10:23:49

2) Have their been any studies about why children runaway? What's the most common reason? Are there any signs to look out for?

happyknickers Mon 26-Nov-12 10:24:38

What percentage of runaways are actually found?

cm22v077 Mon 26-Nov-12 10:27:11

3) Is there anything I can do to help reduce the amount of children who runaway?

happyknickers Mon 26-Nov-12 10:27:25

I hope that is my £6 added to the pot smile

Surely more people want to add their £6 to the pot? Would be so easy to raise lots more money. Aviva, I think this is a really great that you're getting involved in this.

elfonashelf Mon 26-Nov-12 10:39:41

all the questions I want to ask have already been said, but I want to add my £6, so I'll just add them anyway:

1) When a child runs away and is returned, are they likely to run away again?
2) What is the average age a child runs away?
3) Are there safe places for runaways? Where are these?

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 26-Nov-12 11:10:15

The Q&A is now closed and the answers will be back on the 10 December, but until that point you can use this thread to discuss the issues of running away and every post with donate £2 to the charity Railway Children (you can post a maximum of 3 times).

noidles Tue 27-Nov-12 12:16:34

Bumping! RachelMumsnet says we can add up to 3 posts about running away and £2 will be donated for every post. Surely more people can get posting?

quietlysuggests Thu 29-Nov-12 21:27:28

So I can still ask a question -
Do YP who run away assume a new identity or keep their old one typically?

quietlysuggests Thu 29-Nov-12 21:28:22

Does the use of social media help to find those who have run away? Can they be traced eg from their facebook accounts?

quietlysuggests Thu 29-Nov-12 21:31:56

Are runaway cases actively investigated by police services, do they go and look to make sure they are safe, alive, etc?

OhWesternWind Thu 29-Nov-12 22:31:36

My daughter ran away, briefly, thank goodness, last year whilst she was in an upset state about some family problems. What is the best way to speak to a youngish child (she's now ten) about the real dangers of running away, particularly for a girl, without frightening her unnecessarily?

OhWesternWind Thu 29-Nov-12 22:32:38

Why do children tend to run away? From my experience it was due to upset about a family problem, but it this the most common reason?

OhWesternWind Thu 29-Nov-12 22:33:14

What help is available to families of runaway children, and the children themselves, when they've returned to the family?

ginbob Mon 10-Dec-12 01:49:26

To what extent are the budget cuts and economic strain the country is under, making this problem worse, would you say?

yellowdomino Tue 11-Dec-12 19:02:27

When are we going to get the answers to this please? smile

what % of children run away because of some kind of abuse? and what % get abused by other adult homeless people?also how many railway children end up becoming some kind of addict to alcahol or drugs ?

ShadeMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 12-Dec-12 11:42:19

Sorry, the answers to this Q&A will now be going up slightly later than promised. We'll post a link to the answer page on Friday afternoon.

NancyMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 17-Dec-12 09:43:17

Hello, sorry for the delay! We've got the answers back now.
Here they are.

Lua Wed 23-Jan-13 16:56:38

hat does Aviva actually does to help children at risk?

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