Your foster child going missing can be a distressing and anxious time for the whole family, as well as the child. Children can abscond and go missing for a variety of reasons including wanting control in their lives.
Reasons a foster child may run away
- Having a disagreement with you or a member of their household
- A cry for help
- Not being able to manage their emotions within the family home
- Wanting to go back to their family
- Wanting to be in a place closer to their family
- A protest against social services because their requests are not being met – although at times these requests can be such that they put the young person at risk.
This is not an exhausted list of reasons. Each young person is an individual and will have their own reasons for running away. Children that go missing can be a greater risk due to their vulnerabilities of their previous childhood experiences that led them to come into care.
Who do you contact if your foster child goes missing?
Each Local Authority Social Services departments have their own ‘missing from home protocol’ as does the police. The way the police handle children and adults that go missing now has changed due to many reasons including resources management.
What can I do as a foster parent to manage the situation?
- Have open and honest communication with your Social Worker (Placement Manager)
- Keep professionals up to date with new behaviours, worries and issues within the placement
- Advocate on behalf of the young person to enable them to build trust with you
- Inform your Social Worker as soon as the child has gone missing so they can advise and guide you of what to do.
- If a young person is late home please give them some time to get home, young people are prone to ‘losing track of time’. This time can be agreed with your social worker
- Contact the young person in whatever way you can, when they have not returned home
- Contact friends and family – make your own enquires
The police would have expected you to do the above prior to contacting them, unless you are aware and have a high suspicion that the child is at RISK. Foster parents are best placed at judging the RISK the child is at due to knowing the child. However open and honest communication is needed with your social worker to ensure that an appropriate plan of action is put into place.
Do I need to call the police once my foster child has been found?
If it is necessary for the police to be called once the young person has been found then there will be a meeting called a ‘Safe and Well’ meeting and this should be done by an independent person. The reason for this meeting is to establish the reason for the young person going missing and also to gain information about how we can help them and if there are any underlying issues we don’t know about.
The police, will routinely check your home as a first port of investigation. Please do not be alarmed this is ‘normal’ practice for them.
Where to seek out additional support as a foster parent?
AFA offers 24 hour 7 days a week support to all our foster parents and expect foster parents to use this support in order to manage situations with the backing of a qualified member of staff. AFA pride ourselves in the support we give our foster parents and children we care for including birth children. Get in touch with AFA for guidance or enquire about becoming a foster parent.