Runaway Youth … A Growing Concern in Quebec

Reposted with permission from Missing Children's Network, Quebec
 
Every day in Quebec, on average, 22 children are reported missing to police authorities. The majority of these children are runaways – youngsters between the ages of 12-17 who flee their home or youth centre for various reasons. These may include the need to rebel, exert their independence or escape an environment of abuse, with females accounting for nearly 60% of all runaway reports. Thankfully, over 88 % of these children are located and returned home safely within the first week of their disappearance.
 
Running away can be a frightening experience for both the child and his family. The child becomes vulnerable as soon as he leaves home – potentially falling victim to substance abuse, theft, crime, homelessness and sexual exploitation. The longer a teenager is away from his home, the greater his risks are of falling victim to acts of aggression and exploitation. In the face of this reality, many families may feel guilty, depressed or even paralyzed by fear and may delay seeking the necessary support and assistance required. Often, they do not know where to turn to for help.
 
The Missing Children’s Network is an invaluable resource for parents of teenagers who are at risk of running and can provide parents with the tools that will enable them to support their teen throughout this tumultuous period. Children who run away have usually planned to do so in advance and are well prepared, therefore, it is important to recognize the early signs. It is also important to keep in mind that a youngster may also show several warning signs without necessarily planning to run away. It is imperative to always listen to what your child has to say! We recommend that you seek help from appropriate resources rather than letting the situation deteriorate.
Possible warning signs that your child is thinking of running away:

Possible warning signs that your child is thinking of running away:

  • Accumulating money and personal possessions (money and clothing hidden in his room);
  • Talking about running away (some youngsters try to anticipate their parents’ reaction on this subject);
  • Problems at school and/or at home;
  • Alcohol or substance abuse;
  • A sudden change of friends or companions;
  • Isolation;
  • Extreme change of habits (sleeping, eating, unusual outbursts, etc);
  • Depression.
What should you do if your child runs away?

What should you do if your child runs away?

Report the runaway to local law enforcement as quickly as possible. The first hours following the runaway episode are the most important in locating a child. Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no law stating that you have to wait 24 hours before informing the police that your child is missing. Provide law enforcement with a recent photograph of your child as this will facilitate their job and accelerate the search for your missing child.
What can you do before calling the police?

What can you do before calling the police?

  • Communicate with your child’s friends, school, neighbours, relatives, after-school activity leader, employer or anyone else who may know of or have clues about your child’s whereabouts;
  • Press the “redial” button on your phone to see if you can identify a last call your child may have made before he left the house;
  • Check your voice mail and/or phone display screen to identify recent incoming calls;
  • Check your child’s e-mail (all folders) and look carefully through mail discarded in the garbage;
  • Call or visit spots your child may frequent.
What should you do after calling the police?

What should you do after calling the police?

  • Report your child missing to the Missing Children’s Network at 514.843.4333 or toll-free at 1 888 692.4673 to seek help and support. When your child is recovered or returns home, remember to show love and concern for his safety and well-being – not anger or fear.
  • Make sure your child understands that you care about what happens to him. It is important to try and resolve the problems that prompted the child to leave home in the first place as these unresolved issues may lead to another runaway incident.
Remember … you are not alone.

Remember … you are not alone.

The Missing Children’s Network is here to help. Our Case Managers can assist families in the preparation and distribution of posters, while providing them with a distinct support and referral service during and following recovery. We work closely with law enforcement, social service agencies, the media and other appropriate community organizations. All of our services are provided year-round and free-of-charge thanks to the generosity of the public and corporations.
Additional resources:

Additional resources: