Comprehensive research

The project’s first component is comprehensive research: updating of knowledge about the experiences of minors who have run away.  Various interpretations about running away exist, as is with many other subjects which are difficult to define. These interpretations are often built on established positions and emotions that may color intervention methods.  In order to develop strategies permitting us to better intervene and work these young persons, it is important to review our understanding of the phenomenon of running away and to question the practices of intervention currently in place.  Comprehensive research is not an end in itself.

Updating our knowledge on the experience of minors who have run away

The comprehensive research took place in four cities:  Montreal, Drummondville, Three-Rivers and Quebec City.  To obtain a global portrait of the phenomenon, it is not enough to focus only on the perceptions of young people and of parents.  It is also necessary to include the perceptions of the professionals who deal directly with runaways.  We interviewed young people and parents as well as professionals from youth centres, community organizations and police departments. Professionals, as defined by their roles, also have great influence on the behavior of the minors who runaway and their parents/caregivers.

Sample of the population interviewed

Young people (n = 34)

  • Boys and girls aged 14 to 21 years old
  • When possible, who repeatedly ran away.
  • Recruited with the help of professionals they trusted.

Parents (n = 10)

  • Whose child had already run away
  • Not necessarily the parents of the young people who were part of the sample
  • Recruited with the help of professionals they trust.

Professionals (n = 45)

  • Who had already experienced a situation where one or more of the young people for whom they were responsible ran away
  • Who demonstrated a concern with intervention with runaways
  • Recruited with the help of representatives of the project’s partner organizations.

The framework for the interviews in three parts . . .

First part: running away and its realities.  Verify with the young persons, the parents and the professionals their knowledge and their opinion on the subject:

  • Concrete facts
  • The experiences of young person’s during the period they ran away
  • Network and environment
  • Survival strategies

Second part: running away and the meaning that one gives to this experience

  • For young people: how the experience of running away affected their lives and in the construction of their identities.
  • For the parents: the experience of the parent during the period when their child had run away and their understanding of the experience that their child lived.
  • For the professionals: the challenges for intervening before, during and after the period of running away, and their comprehension of the experience lived by the young people.

Third part: common responsibility for protecting children.  Verify with young people, parents and professionals their knowledge and their opinion on the subject:

  • The point of view of the different actors about the laws/obligations related to the protection and the development of adolescents.
  • The safety and development needs of adolescents, and the role of adults to meet these needs.