Information for parents

What to do if your child goes missing

If you're worried about a child going missing

If you're worried that a child is thinking about or has gone missing, please read this information so you know what to do. 

When to report a child as missing

You do not have to wait 24 hours to report someone missing. If you suspect that your child is missing, you should make a report to the police as soon as you have done as much as possible to find them. 

This could include:

  • Making attempts to contact them 
  • Calling friends or family
  • Visiting areas they frequent
  • Checking somewhere they’re known to attend or may have mentioned they were going to (for example, a friend’s house or party)
  • Checking to see if any items are missing from the home

How to report someone as missing in Pan-Cheshire

Are they in immediate danger?

If a young person is in immediate danger, is a young child, or at risk of  harm, the above checks are not necessary - call 999 now.

Why might a young person go missing?

There are many reasons why young people go missing, including:

  1. Problems at school: These could include experiencing bullying, feeling pressure to get certain grades, or worrying about fitting in.
  2. Problems at home: This could include the young person having a challenging relationship with their parents or siblings, or it could be that their parents fight a lot. In some instances, the young person may not be receiving emotional, physical or financial support from a parent or carer.
  3. Friendships and relationships: This could include issues with friends, boyfriends or girlfriends.
  4. Drugs or alcohol: This could include the young person feeling peer pressure, or their parents might be experiencing challenges with drugs or alcohol. In some instances, the young person may themselves be experiencing challenges with drugs.
  5. Exploitation: This could include ‘county lines’, which is where criminals befriend children and then manipulate them into selling drugs. 
  6. Abuse: This could include physical, mental or sexual abuse.

Reducing the likelihood of your child going missing 

Knowing how to spot the signs can help you to seek support and put steps in place as soon as possible.

  • Have there been any changes in the child’s behaviour?
  • Are they more withdrawn or isolated, are they being secretive about their whereabouts or friendship groups?
  • If you have concerns for a child, consider who would be the best person to approach and discuss these concerns with them

  • Think about what you’re going to say. Prepare yourself to be as calm and positive as possible.

  • Find the right moment. - watch for ‘green light’ moments when they are engaged with you and seem open to talking.

  • You aren’t going to sort everything out in one go. It’s more helpful to see this as the start of an ongoing conversation. Aim to have a short conversation today then pick it up another time.

  • If things get heated, it’s best to back off. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Just say something like, “OK, that’s enough for today but please can we keep having these chats?”.

Help them identify people who can provide support.

This may be a relative, teacher or other professional.

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