Section 38,1 a) of Youth Protection Act (YPA) states that the safety or the development of a child may be considered to be in danger where he/she leaves his/her own home, a foster family or a facility maintained by an institution operating a rehabilitation centre or a hospital. That said, running away is not a synonym for fun. It is a response to certain fundamental needs of young people such as liberty, self-actualization, experimenting, questioning or autonomy. Thus, the challenge for professionals is to listen carefully to the messages expressed by running away in order to adapt our support to the different realities as lived and perceived by these minors.
An incident or a situation that may seem harmless for some can represent a difficult obstacle for others. Faced with such a situation, minors can experience difficulty in expressing themselves and even in understanding their own emotions. Thus, certain minors can choose to run away as a means of getting attention, of disappearing or perhaps of finding themselves. Young people can, consciously or not, use running away as a means of sending messages to adults, particularly to professionals. Even before the act of running away, young people often address their discontent to people in their entourage. If they do not feel understood or feel that their needs are not being met, this could motivate running away.
The actual act of running away, whether spontaneous or planned, is generally preceded by a dilemma. These young people are ambivalent to the critical incident within their placement, family dynamics or social situation which pushed them to use running away as a solution to this problem. The degree of ambivalence is proportional to the quality of the relationships that these minors have with significant others (family, peers, professionals, etc.). The stronger the ties, the more difficult for these young persons to leave their home or placement. Conversely, the weaker the ties, the easier it is to run away.