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This page offer guidance should a child go missing from Children's Social Services.

In all missing persons cases, first contact the police to file a missing persons report, and follow police advice.

The reasons for a child's absence are varied, complex and cannot be viewed in isolation from their home circumstances and their experiences of care.

Therefore every missing child episode should attract proper attention from the professionals involved with the child, and those professionals must, in turn, collaborate to ensure a consistent and coherent response is given to the child when they return.

Missing children

Any young person under the age of 18 years is considered missing if they are absent from where they live without authority, to a degree or in circumstances where the absence causes concern for safety of the child or there is potential danger to the public.

Absences which cause concern are those where staff or carers have no indication that a child is likely to return within a short space of time, or where there is immediate concern for the child's safety.

Clearly some children absent themselves for a short period and then return: often their whereabouts are known. They are not considered at risk and usually they are testing boundaries. Sometimes children stay out longer than agreed either on purpose or unwittingly. This kind of boundary testing activity is well within the range of normal teenage behaviour and should not come within the definition of 'missing' for this protocol.

As well as the above, staff should consider the following: 

  • guidance already agreed and incorporated within the child's care plan
  • child's age
  • legal status of the child in care
  • previous behaviour patterns
  • state of mind and perceived risk
  • group behaviour
  • whether the child is perceived as running to someone, or running from a situation
The police are key partners in managing episodes of missing children, so it is important that staff in all agencies work together. There is a Missing Children Protocol to follow, which can be downloaded below. This protocol is important for the safeguarding of children and families in the Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Southampton and Portsmouth local authority area.

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