Why does a child go missing from foster carers?

Children in foster care go missing for various reasons, most of the time the child will be with their friends or birth family.

Most of the time when the child is still in contact with their birth family, they sometime would run home to see them or would want to stay out with friends.

Do remember it’s very difficult for a young child to adjust to such life changes. Being placed in care and away from birth family. It can take time to build trust and for a strong bond to form between the child and the foster parent.

What to do if a child goes missing?

  1. Try to contact the child first

Try your best and do everything to find the child. Sometimes children will lose track of time or are maybe testing your commitment to them. But always check in before raising the alarm.

As their foster carer and being familiar with them, most of the time you’ll known where they are. In cases where the young person isn’t answering their phone, you’ll check with their close friends and family to begin with.

Your social worker is the first point of call as they are there to support you, as well as a 24/7 wrap- around support team. You will never have to make decisions on your own.

Stay calm and be kind even though it will be difficult to stay calm after so much uncertainty. Offer them some food. Reassure them and give them a hug, let them know you’re happy to see them and it’s nice they are back. Do tell them you’ve missed them and carry on as normal.

Acting with empathy helps the child to feel accepted after they return. By letting the child know you’ve been worried about them helps them to recognise you care. This build trust and seals the bond between a foster carer and young persona.

Never ask a child where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing right away. Doing this will when they first see you will not work. In this situation, acting with compassion and active listening are key. For most vulnerable children, confrontation will cause a fight or flight reflex. It may mean the child feels attacked, causing them to run away again.

As a foster parent you need to think about the child and think of their situation and their childhood, you don’t know what might have happened to them in the past. Approaching them suddenly could scare them, you must wait for the right time, only then you find out what triggered them to run away.

Having a good support network around you will help you through the tougher times of fostering. Reach out to a loved one.