Children Missing from Home or Care
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
These procedures provide information on how to respond when a child runs away/goes missing from home or care.
RELEVANT SAFEGAURDING CHILDREN PROCEDURES
The following relevant procedures are located in the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures:
- West Yorkshire Joint Protocol for Children Missing from Home or Care;
- Investigation Strategy for Harbourers of Children and Young People;
- Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation: Policy, Procedures and Guidance; and
- Calderdale Guidance for Strategy Discussion / Meeting.
LOCAL DOCUMENTSMissing from Care Incident From
1. Procedural Context and Required Checks
When Children's Social Care receives notification that a child is missing, the information should be assessed to determine the level of risk to the child and whether the child is a Child in Need. It must also be borne in mind that information relating to unusual non-school attendance, missed appointments, cancelled or abortive visits may indicate that a child is missing and may have moved with their family or carer out of the area.
2. Children not Known to Children's Social Care
Where initial enquiries do not identify that the threshold for Children's Social Care involvement has been met, details of the missing child will be referred to early intervention services. When the child is found / returns home, the early intervention worker will undertake a return interview and assess any further needs. If this assessment identifies further needs, consideration will be given to a referral for appropriate services.
3. Children Known to Children's Social Care or Closed in the Last Three Months
Notifications in relation to missing children are processed by the Missing Person Service. Where it is established that a child falls into one of the above categories (see paragraph 1.1) and/or where professionals agree that the child is a Child in Need based on available information, and there are concerns for a child's welfare or safety if they are not located, the following persons/agencies must be notified:
- The police (where this has not already been done);
- The social worker, who notifies the relevant IRO or Conference Chair and the core group members if appropriate (where the child has a Child Protection Plan).
Procedure for recording missing episodes for children who are looked after and placed out of area:
- During working hours the child's social worker will inform the Missing Person Service team who will create a missing episode;
- Out of hours the Emergency duty team (EDT) must inform the Missing persons services team. This ensures that we are monitoring children who are externally placed as robustly as those placed internally and alerts the missing coordinator as to the need for a return interview;
- The Missing Service team based in Family Intervention will undertake an Independent Return Interview, for those placed externally this may be via phone, facetime etc., depending on the distance
- All local agencies that know the child – to try and obtain any information that may assist the Police to trace the child; if the missing child is thought to be in another local authority area, the social worker will notify local partners and the local authority, where the child is believed to be;
- All those with Parental Responsibility and, where appropriate, members of the extended family;
- Legal Services (if the child is subject to Court proceedings).
4. Strategy Meeting
See also: Guidance for Strategy Discussion / Meeting.
If the child is missing for:
- 72 hours;
- 4 separate occasions in any one month; or
- 6 separate occasions in any two months period.
A Strategy Meeting, chaired by the Service Manager for Safeguarding and Quality Assurance or a Children's Social Care Service Manager, should be held after 72 hours, or by a Team Manager in a planned way for intermittent missing episodes within 5 days of the last missing episode. The Strategy Meeting should consider:
- What additional measures are required to safeguard the child?
- Whether to circulate the child's details to other local authorities and agencies in the area where the child may be;
- Notifying national agencies, including the Department for Work and Pensions and the Child Benefit Office;
- Appropriate legal action if there is any concern that the child may be removed from the jurisdiction. It may be appropriate to contact the Child Abduction Unit and/or the Consular Directorate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who may conduct follow up enquiries through their consular post in the country or countries concerned;
- The CLA service manager and the Head of Service must be briefed on the outcome of the Strategy Meeting within 24 hours.
5. Follow up Action
Where the Strategy Meeting agrees that notifications to other local authorities should be undertaken the social worker should draft a brief letter giving details of:
- The child and family;
- Other family members or significant adults;
- The circumstances causing concern;
- Action required if a child is found;
- Details of contact arrangements for the social worker - including out of office hours contact;
- Where possible physical descriptions of the key people and photographs, if available.
The letter should be sent to the Service Manager Safeguarding and Quality Assurance to be circulated to other Local Authority Safeguarding Units nationally, with an expectation that the letter will then be shared within their local authority and among partner agencies. This action should be completed within 48 hours of the Strategy Meeting.The Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Service Manager should inform the Director of Children's Services and the Council's Press office.
If the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan the Lead Social Worker should regularly consult the Conference Chair and if the child is still missing after 20 working days, a Child Protection Review Conference must be convened to consider any additional action.
6. When a Missing Child is Located - Return Interview and Other Considerations
When a child, who has been the subject of a Strategy Meeting as a result of being missing for a period of 72 hours or more, is located, a further Strategy Meeting between the agencies involved should be convened within one working day to consider:
- Immediate safety issues;
- Whether to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry;
- Who will interview the child (regardless of whether or not a s.47 Enquiry is to take place);
- Whether a Child and Family Single Assessment should be completed to determine any services required;
- Who needs to be informed of the child's return (both locally and nationally).
Where a child known to Children' Social Care returns, he or she will be offered an Independent Return Interview with a member of the Missing Person Team. The interview offers the child an opportunity to discuss any concerns away from the parents or carers.
If the child is in foster care, the carer must work with the placing authority (i.e. the child's social worker) to create a strategy to keep the child safe in future.
Parents will need to be informed, and involved if this is appropriate.
The purpose of the return interview is to:
- Give the child the chance to talk about why they ran away;
- Assess any risks including risk of future running away;
- Provide advice, information and support;
- Consider whether services, for example family mediation or youth counselling, are required;
- See also: West Yorkshire Joint Protocol for Children Missing from Home or Care.
Where a child is located in the area of another local authority and is unlikely to return to the authority, a representative of the local authority where the child now lives should be invited to the Strategy Meeting to consider a transfer of the case. The case should not be closed until a transfer meeting has taken place.
If the child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the child's social worker in consultation with the Safeguarding Manager, must consider the need to convene a Child Protection Review Conference.
When a child in foster care goes missing, the fostering service must follow the local protocol for where the child is placed. A preventative, educative approach is expected from foster carers to encourage them to deal with situations where the missing child's whereabouts are known and to work alongside the Police.
Where a child who has been placed in Calderdale by another authority is located the Missing Person Service will offer an Independent Return Interview. Any concerns arising about the placement should be addressed, as far as possible, in conjunction with the Placing Authority.Where a child placed by Calderdale in another authority is located the Police will notify the Missing Person Co-ordinator. The Co-ordinator will arrange an Independent Return Interview and inform the placing Authority.