If you decide to run away, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will face these consequences. In every situation, there are many issues that make youth consider running away, but in all cases, it is necessary to know the possible consequences in order to be able to make an informed choice. So, don’t hesitate to ask for help from the available resources: legal aid, organizations that specialize in the defending your rights, etc.
According to the Quebec Civil Code, a minor cannot leave his/her home or any other placement without the consent of the parents or the person with parental authority (Hanigan, 1997). The Youth Protection Act (YPA) tells us that a minor’s safety or development can be at risk if he or she runs away from his/her own home, foster family, rehabilitation centre or a hospital without the authorization of the parents or of the person legally responsible for them (section 38,1 YPA). So, if you run away, the person who is legally responsible for you can notify the police that you are missing. Once that’s done, the role of the police is to look for you and to return you to where you live.
It is possible that you left because you felt that you were misunderstood or that your needs were not being met by the people responsible for you. If that is the case, running away may be a good time to prepare yourself to express these concerns in another way. Even if it is difficult, it is true that, through talking , the situation can change and that there may be room to propose solutions and make agreements that might work for everyone.
If you ran away because you disagreed decisions made about these important issues (housing, school, work, training, therapy, sexuality, being placed in youth protection, etc.), this is the moment to speak your mind. Prepare yourself to argue for and defend your needs and wants. This is perhaps a starting point towards the solving a difficult situation.
If you took the decision to run away, you can also take the lead in finding a solution to your struggles. Running away means something to you. You are the boss in this decision and you always have the possibility of defending your point of view.
Here’s a series of questions that you should ask yourself regularly, while you are on the run. Even if you are not able to answer them immediately, keep them in mind while you are considering why you ran away and what you want to happen next:
There are different kinds of resources that are able to help and support you. There are help lines and organizations that can answer, confidentially, your questions about different subjects like sexuality, drug use, the law and your rights. There are also organizations that can provide you with shelter. These are not places where you can hide but where you can live safely. They can also provide you with food, a place to shower and sleep and, eventually, find the time and the necessary energy to think about your situation. If you have run away, don’t hesitate to contact these resources to find out how they work.
Back-up and intensive supervision are exceptional measures and, therefore, they are not used automatically. Back-up is a kind of “closed retreat” intended to help a young person figure out what is going on that is making them unhappy and find solutions. As a general rule, it does not last longer than 5 days. If a young person is not considered ready to go back to his/her unit, and he or she must stay in back-up for a longer period, this must be approved by the coordinator. Intensive supervision is considered a necessary step when the young person is having certain kinds of serious difficulties: multiple placements, repeated running away, aggressiveness, major difficulties with relationships, refusing help, drug use, or hanging out in gangs or people in trouble with the law. For more information on care in intensive supervision, you can read the brochure “You are placed in an intensive supervision unit at a youth centre. What happens next?” by clicking on the following link: http://publications.msss.gouv.qc.ca/acrobat/f/documentation/2007/07-838-03A.pdf
Remember that running away is not an offense in itself although it implies by definition “unauthorized” acts you may end up participating in which can influence what will happen when you return. It is possible that the decision to leave your home/placement could lead to consequences. Some of these consequences may make your situation more livable and some you may not like very much. Either way, it is in your best interest to be aware of these consequences and prepared for them. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about what may happen when you return. Also, don’t forget that you’re subject to certain laws, for example The Youth Prevention Act (YPA) and the Quebec Civil Code, and so are the people who are responsible for you. These laws give you rights which you probably want to be respected. If you have the feeling that your rights or freedoms have been violated, you should know that solutions to these problems may exist in the law. Find out about the resources that are likely to be able to help you.