Are you thinking about running away?

You are having a conflict?  You have difficulty communicating, discussing the situation or negotiating with the people who take care of you?  You think that your rights aren’t being respected?  You feel you are being smothered?  You need freedom?  You have the impression that it’s better somewhere else?  You find yourself in a situation that is unlivable for you?  You want to express your disagreement or your anger but you no longer know how?

You’re “fed up”.  The situation has to change.  You are thinking about running away.

Whether or not to choose to run away requires some thought. In order to decide what is best for you, take the time to find out about your options. What are the things you need to consider if you choose to run away? What are the possible outcomes in your situation, if you do or do not decide to runaway?  The following points are intended to help you make the decision that is best for you, and to help you reduce the risk of living some unhappy experiences.

The possibilities available to you

Even if your current situation makes you believe that your best option is to leave, try to stay calm and keep your cool. Even if it is difficult, it is better to avoid a quick decision or one driven by emotions like anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, jealousy, excitement, rebelliousness, etc. Decisions that are taken too rapidly or impulsively are not always the best ones.

It is important to avoid dealing with your problems all by yourself. Try to find someone to help you look at all of your options and weigh out the possibilities you have before making a decision. Talking about what is going on in your life can help you take charge of a difficult situation. It allows many people to free themselves of their emotions or, quite simply, to see things more clearly. It is very important to be listened to and to have someone else understand your situation and your point of view. This kind of solid support can, without a doubt, provide you some comfort, a chance to breathe and maybe even help you come up with new possible solutions, you may not realize exist.

You can try talking with a person who you trust and who will listen without judging you or trying to influence you. It is easier for someone who is not directly involved to offer you a new look at the situation and help you to see different solutions.

If there is no one in your immediate circle to whom you feel that can share your difficulties with (a friend, family, someone close to you), there are other possibilities. This person could also be a community worker, a social worker, a teacher, a professor, a school or group home worker or support staff, a nurse, a doctor, etc. There are also community organizations that can assist you and provide you with the support you need.

Over and above the support that you can receive by talking to someone, you can also consider the possibility of asking a neutral person to intervene directly as a mediator between you and the person(s) involved in this situation that has led you to consider running away.

Finally, sometimes, waiting until the dust settles and stepping back from the situation can be beneficial in resolving a conflict. The idea of taking a break, whether for a day or a night or maybe even a few days is a possibility to consider. And remember that, if you feel this need, it is probably also true for the other people involved in the problem also need a break before this issue can be resolved.

If that is what you want to do, make a proposition that would be acceptable for the person who is legally responsible for you. For example: propose a secure place where you could live for the time out you need, determine when and how often you will be in contact, provide the names of reliable people who will take care of you, etc.

To find a temporary solution, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your extended family. In addition, there are resources that can come to your aid, for example, health and social services centres (CSSS), help lines and community organizations.

On the other hand, don’t forget that you are subject to certain laws, specifically the Youth Protection Act (YPA), (the Youth Criminal Justice Act- YCJA) and the Quebec Civil Code. The person(s) who are responsible for you are also subject to these laws. These laws give you both rights which you want to be respected by others and responsibilities you have to your caregivers. Therefore, if you feel that someone is not respecting some of your rights or liberties, you should know that legal solutions exist in these situations.

Legal issues that are important to know

Don’t forget that if running away is not necessarily “illegal”, the legal definition of running away often includes some “unauthorized” acts that can have important consequences in your situation.

Even if the rules are different depending on the place from which you ran away (the family, foster family, extended family or another residential setting such as a group home or a centre), there is always a risk that you will be reported to the police for running away and that the police will then be obliged to find you.

In the case of running away from the family setting, a report could also be filed with the Direction of Youth Protection (DYP) who will evaluate the situation and decide on whether they should get involved in your case (follow-up within the family, admission to an institution, etc.).

When running away from an institution, (a rehabilitation centre, hospital or foster family), there could be multiple consequences. Examples include:

  • losing your placement (i.e. in a group home/ foster home/transfer to another school); transferring to another institution often with stricter rules;
  • losing privileges when you return;
  • having to stop programs and activities you liked and were involved in;
  • being placed in a more secure setting with stricter rules.

Attention! 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.

Some realities and some advice about running away

If you decide to run away, it is likely that, at first, you will have the impression that everything is awesome.  You will feel free, far from the problems that got you there.  But, very quickly, whether you are prepared or not, you will be faced with certain basic needs:  feeding yourself, sleeping, showering, where to spend your time.

Moreover, since running away is, by definition, an “unauthorized” act, it means that you will no doubt be looked for and you probably don’t want to be found.  So, where will you go?

If you count on your friends to put you up, it is important that you know that they could find themselves in very serious legal trouble.  According to the law, to legally provide housing for a minor requires the consent of the parents or the person who has parental authority.

There are organizations that are in a position to house and take care of minors who have run away.  These are not places where you can hide, nor stay forever, but they are safe.  Moreover, they offer food, a shower and a place to sleep thus giving you the possibility to think through your situation in peace.  Don’t hesitate to contact them and find out how they what they can provide for you.

If you decide to handle this on your own, you should be aware that you will be faced with certain problems directly related to living on the run.  Here are some examples:

  • Difficulty finding and keeping a job, continuing your studies or getting training:  you are being looked for and you have no fixed address where you can stay.
  • Difficulty finding housing when you don’t have any money or someone to co-sign a lease for you.
  • Difficulty meeting your basic needs (food, sleep, showers, clothes) with no money and without being able to count on the people who normally provide these things for you.

In addition, even if it isn’t what you want, running away can create certain situations that you probably don’t want to end up in.  Especially these situations:

  • Participation in illegal acts (stealing, sneaking into the Métro, “taxing”, etc.).
  • The possibility of being asked or recruited by people or groups who organize illegal activities (street gangs, prostitution, selling drugs, etc.)
  • Excessive drug and/or alcohol use, etc.

You should know that there are help lines available for you and there are resources where you can, in complete confidentiality (without anyone knowing), find information on these subjects.