Runaways – Possible Reasons and Ways to Decrease Frequency

Running away from foster care settings not only places young people in harms way, but frequently jeopardizes their current placement.  This often leads to more restrictive placements, and an interruption in learning opportunities at school.  These interruptions can hinder the youth’s ability to build the life skills necessary for greater self sufficiency and to form the social support network essential for resilience and quality of life.  We must make greater efforts to stabilize our teens, keep them safe and allow for them to have normalcy in their everyday lives.

Reasons for Running:

Ø  Restrictions in placement

Ø  Feeling alone, isolated, alienated

Ø  Mistreatment by staff in current placement

Ø  Peer or gang pressure

Ø  Wanting autonomy

Ø  To see family or friends

Ø  To avoid consequences

Factors That Increase Risk of Running:

Ø  Age

Ø  Victim of abuse

Ø  History of runs

Ø  Use of substances

Ø  Presence of mental health diagnosis

Ø  Placement type

Ø  Placement changes

Some Ways to Decrease Run Episodes:

Ø  Case Manager establishing a good rapport with the teen.

Ø  Using a team approach.

Ø  Responding swiftly when windows of opportunity arise

Ø  Advocating for appropriate alternative placement.

Ø  Enhancing skills of the caregivers for the teen.

Ø  Modifying house rules to allow for normalcy.

Ø  Enabling family and peer visits.

Ø  Assisting the teen with occupational and Independent Living Skills

When youth run and return we must conduct a debriefing to determine:

§ Where did they go?

§ What was their motivation for running? 

§ Was the youth running from or to something?

§ Was it a specific incident that triggered the run?

§ What do they do when on the run?

§ Are they having fun or in danger?

§ What can we do to keep them safe?

How do we prevent them from running again?

§ Ask questions about preferences- “What type of home would you like to live in?”, “What would you like to see changed in your current living situation?”, “How is school going?”.

§ Determine what the child’s interests are?

§ Open lines of communication with caregivers, schools and other providers.

§ Analyze the results to determine a plan that would reduce the child’s wanting to run and ensure the child agrees to the plan (written agreements are great).

Less Likely to Run If:

Placed with relatives

Placed with siblings