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Be Informed:Runaway

If your child is missing or you are worried your child may go missing, please refer to How can we help you? for information on indicators of risk, prevention, and immediate steps.

Runaway situations involve any child under the age of 18 who is believed to have run away from their home or place of residence. This can include (but is not limited to):

  • Situations where a child is believed to have voluntarily left their home
  • Situations where it is suspected a child was encouraged to leave by a third party
  • Situations where a child has run away on a number of occasions
  • Situations where a child in the care of a child welfare agency is believed to have voluntarily left their placement

In Canada, the majority of children reported missing are runaways. In 2018 there were 31,003 runaway children/youth reported missing in Canada.1

In most cases, runaway youth leave home for a short period of time, generally over a disagreement with parents/caregivers. They may stay with friends or extended family, and they may repeat this behaviour whenever disagreements arise. In other situations, youth may run from serious problems/situations or they may run to a situation they believe to be better for them. While most runaways return home within a few days, a smaller number of youth may spend periods of time on the street, in shelters, or in other unfamiliar environments.

Why do they run?

The reasons why youth run are complex, but are generally associated with youth attempting to gain some control over their lives. For youth who are seeking control, running away or running to something may be an attempt for increased independence, or may be perceived as the only way to avoid dealing with a poor decision they have made at home, school, or with peers.

Children involved with the child welfare system are at a greater risk of running away and account for many of the children reported missing to police each year. In addition to the typical reasons a child may run, children who have been placed in care may have lived in multiple placements and not have had the opportunity to develop a stable, secure relationship with a caregiver.

Understanding the reasons why a youth runs away is very important to prevent future runaway instances. A child or youth who is deemed as a “chronic runaway” requires more support and care from the public, not less. Every child is important, regardless of their home situation. We can do more to help bring these youth home.

The Dangers

When youth run away, their risk of victimization increases — risks may include exploitation, sexual assault, violence, theft, substance use issues (drug and alcohol), homelessness, and gang involvement.

For additional information on children and youth who run away, please view our Runaway section.

  1. 1 This statistic depicts the number of incidents reported in 2018, it does not reflect the number of runaway children who are currently missing. SOURCE: National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) 2018 Fast Fact Sheet.