Missing Children

The police define missing as ‘anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstance are out of character or context suggests the person may be subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another’.

Before contacting the police: check in places such as bedrooms, gardens, garages and bathrooms as the child might still be within the household. Then check with family, friends and school to see if they know the young persons whereabouts. Contact the person directly via text, call, and social media.

There is an expectation that parents take responsibility in trying to establish the whereabouts of their child. Children who are breaching parental discipline should not be dealt with by police unless there are other risks. For example, a child who is late home from a party should not be regarded as missing until the parent or carer has undertaken enquiries to locate the child.

Parents / Carers Support

We know that it can be difficult for families with missing loved ones to find someone to talk to who understands their unique experience. Sometimes it can feel like other people seem to stop caring or don’t know what to say. Missing People’s helpline is free, and available 24/7. If a friend or relative has gone missing and you need support and advice call or text 116 000 or email: 116000@missingpeople.org.uk. Make sure the first person you call is your local police.

If you’re worried that your child might be thinking about running away, try taking the following recommended steps:

  • Talk to your children openly and honestly
  • Listen to them when they talk about their concerns, feelings and difficulties
  • Respect their emotional responses in every situation
  • Encourage them to succeed and work through their differences and struggles
  • Support your child’s need to gain independence and develop appropriate relationships with others
  • Create opportunities for them to learn how to make positive decisions in their lives
  • Teach your children to be accountable for their actions
  • Protect them from feelings of loneliness and isolation
  • Provide a place of safety for your children, both emotionally and physically
  • Defend them openly against harassment or verbal abuse of any kind
  • Make your home a place of trust and support that meets their needs
Setting the Rules
  • Rule 1. Be consistent – It is essential that you always enforce the rules. Choosing to ignore a broken rule will cause issues with your child and lead them to believe they can pick and choose which rules to follow.
  • Rule 2. Set Rules on communication – If your child has permission to be at a friend’s house, they must call for permission to go to another hang- out spot. Also, it could be beneficial to require them to always pick up calls or return text messages from you on their mobile phone.
  • Rule 3. Get them involved – If possible, make your child feel part of the decision making process by negotiating different rules and consequences with them.
  • Rule 4. Make yourself available – Teens should never be afraid to call you for a lift or ask for advice at any time if they are in an unpleasant situation.
  • Rule 5. Discuss concerns and risk – Discuss your concerns and any potential risks(why are you worried? What could go wrong?). Agree risk- reduction strategies ( eg. Specific actions that will keep them safe)
  • Rule 6. Consequences – Make sure that consequences are put in place and are followed up if rules are broken and don’t back down at any point. When your child does inevitably break a rule, it is crucial that you don’t take away the consequences of their mistakes. In order for your child to respect your clearly stated rules and consequences, you must hold them accountable when they choose to still break a rule.

If you don’t know where your child is report them missing to police.

Useful Contacts

Samaritans: 116 123

Childline: 0808 800 5000

Papyrus Hopeline: 0800 068 41 41, papyrus-uk.org

Youngminds Parents helpline: 0808 802 5544, youngminds.org.uk

Harmless harmless.org.uk

Helplines and charities
Non-governmental organisations that can provide help and information after or before you contact the police.

Missing People
We have been supporting the families and friends of missing people for more than 20 years. Many of these families have told us that it is difficult to find someone to talk to who understands, and that often people are shocked or don’t know what to say when they tell them that a loved one is missing.

Online: www.missingpeople.org.uk
Tel: 116 000
Email: 116000@missingpeople.org.uk

TextSafe® is part of Missing People. TextSafe®is a way for us to reach out to a vulnerable missing child or adult and let them know that our confidential helpline services are available to them. By requesting a TextSafe®, you are triggering a text message which will be sent to their mobile phone explaining how they can get in touch with us for free, 24/7.

Online: www.missingpeople.org.uk
Tel: 116 000
Email: 116000@missingpeople.org.uk

Children’s Society childrenssociety.org.uk

What to do if your child goes missing:

Runaways Parents Guide


What to do when a child goes missing A guide for those working in education and youth work

https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/The professionals guide to runaways

The vanishing: Advice for care home staff on children who go missing from care

Vanishing factsheet