Children who go missing

There may be occasions when children and young people do not always tell you where they are.

Although ideally this situation is best avoided, in practice where there is a trust between the child or young person and their carer you can usually rely on the young person to make sensible decisions and be home within a certain time frame.

However, when young people often stay out late without permission or even disappear for a night or 2, and refuse to say where they are or who they are with, these could be signs that the young person is putting themselves at risk or experiencing some difficulties. You may want to encourage them to talk about it with you or someone they feel safe with and can trust.

When children and young people go missing without reason and efforts to locate them prove unsuccessful, the police should be contacted. They will give advice as to what to do next.

Children who go missing from care

Where children go missing from the care of the local authority (foster placements or residential care) they may be placing themselves at risk. Whilst the reasons for their absence are varied and complex, each episode should be responded to in a consistent way.

Where a child or young person absents themselves for a short period, or stays out longer than agreed they would not normally be regarded as missing. 

However, a child or young person under the age of 18 is considered missing for any of the following reasons:

  • if they are absent from their home without permission to a degree
  • in circumstances where the absence causes concern for the safety of the child
  • there is a potential danger to others

We provide guidance for carers which should be followed when a child or young person in their care goes missing. All carers are aware of this guidance and what factors to consider when deciding how to respond to “missing episodes”. The guidance has been drawn up in conjunction with social workers and the police to ensure a consistent response to the concerns.

Children and families who go missing or move between local authority areas

Poole Local Education Authority have procedures which should be followed when children and their families move without notice and/or go missing from education.

When there are concerns about a child or young person's welfare or child protection concerns and that person goes missing the Poole Local Education Authority (Education Welfare Service) and ourselves have guidance to be followed to try and locate the whereabouts of the child and family.

Further information and contacts

For further details or for guidance on what to do if you are concerned about a child or young person who is missing you can contact us:

Alternatively, you can contact any of the following:

Page last updated: 16 March 2021
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