The figures, gathered by the children’s charity under the Freedom of Information Act, show that almost 8,000 children in care went missing last year, with nearly 3,000 disappearing more than once, enough to bring the total number of individual incidents to over 28,000.
Most of those running away were teenagers between 13 and 17 years of age, The Independent reports, but some were younger. One child was only six years old.
The charity’s Tom Rahilly said children in care were especially vulnerable and absconding put them at a real risk of exploitation or abuse.
“The state needs to be a parent for these children. If any other child went missing their parents would move heaven and earth to find them and to understand why they did it. It should be no different for young people in care.”
“Children go missing for many reasons – they’re being bullied, they’ve been put in a home miles from their family and they miss them and their friends, or they just don’t trust staff enough to tell them where they are. Many will have been abused before being placed in care and they need a lot of attention and protection. Going missing for just an hour or two can be long enough for them to come to harm.”
Children in care need understanding and engagement from concerned adults, Mr Rahilly continued.
“Of course care staff have a difficult job but children tell us they are looking for someone to understand why they go missing and to help set boundaries for them. Children want a little love and to be able to speak to someone who understands the difficulties they face. Otherwise, in the words of one young boy in care, they are ‘dead to the world’.”
Photo by BabyDinosaur via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence