Teen Runaways

“You won’t live under my roof unless you cut your hair.” What happens when your 15-year-old takes you up on the offer? Each year in the U.S. one in seven teenagers between the ages of 10 and 18 run away, according to the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS). Currently, between one and three million teenagers are living on the streets in the U.S.

The NRS is a 24-hour crisis line for runaways and the people around them. Of the calls they received in 2011, 32% were from runaways who were on the streets for 6 months or more. Of all calls, 73% relied on friends or relatives to survive, and 10% relied on shelters.

Children run away when they are out of problem solving skills to deal with their current situation. Whether that is family dynamics, abuse or substance abuse, their response is to remove their self from the situation. There are two distinctions; episodic running away and chronic running away. Episodic running away is usually in response to a trigger event, a last straw when the child has run out of perceived options. Chronic running away, however, is used to gain power over the parents. The child knows that by running away or threatening to run away, their parent will give in to their demands. This is fundamentally different from the former in that it is a problem solving strategy, opposed to the lack of one.

If your child does run away, you should notify the police and file a missing persons report. Keep records of all the details of the investigation. You can then contact the NRS, in case the child calls. You should spread the word and contact any friends that may have seen your child. You can also look at credit card activity, phone bills, e-mail, etc. which might contain clues to your child’s whereabouts. You should also contact the child’s school.

If and when the child returns, there is still a long road ahead. It is important to discuss the reasons for the runaway, and attempt to heal the divides. Family counseling can be very helpful. Often multiple counselors will be brought in to deal with each party on an individual and family level.

Additional Resources

Hub Pages Teen Runaways—A Dangerous and Tragic Problem: http://mikelickteig.hubpages.com/hub/Teen-Runaways-A-Dangerous-and-Tragic-Problem

National Runaway Switchboard: http://www.1800runaway.org/

Troubled Teen Runaways: http://www.troubled-teen.com/content/teen-runaways.html

Georgia Bureau of Investigation: http://gbi.georgia.gov/02/gbi/home/0,2615,67862954,00.html;jsessionid=FAB8F05D9E9CE697355FC1FC5FA131CF

FBI Crimes Against Children: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/vc_majorthefts/cac/crimes_against_children

Hunter Ivestigations State of Georgia Law Enforcement Missing Persons & Runaway Protocol: http://hunterpi.com/state-of-georgia-law-enforcement-missing-persons-runaway-protocol/

Empowering Parents Running Away: http://www.empoweringparents.com/Runaway-Teens-Why-They-Do-It-and-How-to-Stop-Them.php

All About Counseling Runaway Children: http://www.allaboutcounseling.com/library/runaway-children/


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