child runaway charity

A child runs away from home or care every five minutes and, according to The Children’s Society, one in five young runaway have begged or stolen to survive. These stats are emotionally difficult to read. Children who have become so desperate for help that they escape from the care in their own homes is incredibly sad – what could cause a child to choose a life on the street?

Recent numbers indicate that 70,000 14- and 15-year-olds run away each year, and this figure has remained broadly static over the past decade. A shocking revelation from The Children Society’s study was that a large majority of them are living with families. The quality of the relationships within the family is far and away the most critical reason why children flee home.

Economic factors do not come into play if the bonds that hold the family together are strong.  Children who live with both their birth parents have the lowest rates of running away. When a drastic change occurs, such as a separation or step-parent moving in, if a child does not understand what has happened to the family structure, they are more likely to run away. Other reasons why children run away include poorer friendships compared to other kids, disconnect from their education, and low self-esteem.

A child runs away because they feel they can escape a situation they deem to hard to deal with. Once they run away, however, they put themselves in an incredibly dangerous situation. One in nine children who fled home was harmed while away and more than a quarter of children said they were in a harmful or risky situation while on the run. Though these stats are not surprising, the numbers have remained stagnant from the same survey from 2005. This means that England has not made itself any safer for runaways in the last seven years.

What can be done to curb this pattern? Some progress has been made in local areas, but it’s argued more must be done. Access to support must improve, experts say, as well as the quality of that support. The government has been encouraged to team up with local agencies to create “a national safety net” for children who have run away from home. Today, only five percent of children seek support from social services, police, teachers or health services after they have fled.

Other ways to create this safety net is to first raise awareness of the dangers of running away. This would deter children from running away in the first place, and look for other ways to deal with the issues they are facing. Schools and other agencies should promote this information to their children. These agencies should also create places that make teenage runaways safe.

The statistics presented in the recent survey show that something needs to change. Children are still running away and there is little sign of improvement. A system needs to be put in place to prevent children from leaving home, as well as provide a safe location for the children that do.

Otherwise, we are letting tens of thousands of children put themselves in harm’s way.

This is a guest post from Kia at The Children’s Society. If you are interested to help young runaways in local areas, visit the website.