As soon as you become aware that a young person has run away, it is important to follow your organization’s protocols, if you have them. Always be sure to consult the Youth Protection Act (YPA) and understand your professional and legal obligations in this matter, especially if they are not addressed in your organizations protocols.
According to section 39 of the YPA:
Every professional who, by the very nature of his/her profession, provides care or any other form of assistance to children and who, in the practice of his/her profession, has reasonable grounds to believe that the safety or the development of a child is or may be considered to be in danger within the meaning of section 38 or 38.1, must bring the situation to the attention of the Director of Youth Protection without delay. This is also an obligation of any employee of an institution, any teacher, any person working in a childcare establishment or any police officer who, in the performance of his/her duties, has reasonable grounds to believe that the safety or the development of a child is or may be considered to be in danger within the meaning of the Youth Protection Act or Civil Code of Quebec.
Once the child has run away, waiting for a call from the child is an important moment and you should be prepared. Communication with the young person is your best bet. That said, one shouldn’t forget that the delay in making that call varies from one young person to another. For certain young people, these delays are a form of protection from adults because they know that, if they call, the adults will try, no doubt, to convince them to come home. On the other hand, other children call after a short delay, particularly those children who feel a strong sense of guilt about their reaction to the crisis. Thus, the call made by a child who has run away may have different objectives.
Meanwhile, running away is an opportune moment for the child to reflect on why running away was so important and how it is affecting them now. The way that he/she will be welcomed back to their placement has an effect on their desire to repeat, or not, this act. Here are a few questions that can contribute to your reflection on how to regain their trust and cooperation: Who is the most significant person to welcome the young person back? What protocols, interventions and attitudes should be adopted when this young person returns?