Troubled Teens
Runaway Teens
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Teen Runaways


  • Teens who run away are not bad
  • They made the bad decision to run. We need to teach them ways of facing and solving problems, even when they believe we are their problem.
  • Most teens know of a teen who has run away
  • This can lead to romantic ideas of life on the streets considering most teens glamourize the experience.
  • Parents cannot lock teenagers in
  • Teens can choose to walk out the door against your wishes.
  • Parents of teens who run away are not bad parents
  • Parents are also under a lot of pressure.


  • Regularly spend quality time with each of your teens. Listen to them attentively in a non-judgmental way. Praise appropriate behaviour.
  • Take their concerns seriously. Do not dismiss their worries and fears.
  • Pay attention when they ask you for help. Make your teen your priority. Confront trouble signs directly, firmly and calmly. Discuss your concerns and the consequences of continued unacceptable behaviour. Avoid lectures.
  • Talk with others. Your teen’s friends, their parents or their teachers may have helpful suggestions.
  • Speak with professional counsellors about your situation.


  • Changes in behaviour patterns
  • Rebellious behaviour
  • Disclosure of intention to run
  • Accumulation of money and possessions
  • Preoccupation
  • Problems at home
  • Transition


There is no law requiring a waiting period before reporting a missing child to the police or before entering the data into the CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre). The first 48 hours following the runaway episode are the most important in locating the teen. While many runaway teens return home within this period, it is critical to take every action available to help locate and safeguard your child. These steps should be taken immediately.

  • Remain calm. Ask yourself why and where your child may have run. Check his/her room, desk and /or clothes for clues. Check local spots your child may frequent, as well as area hospitals and treatment centres if you suspect your child of drug use. Call your child’s employer or coworkers, if any.
  • Contact your child’s friends and their parents, school, neighbours, relatives and others who may know where your child is. Ask them to call if they hear anything. If your child has a computer, check it for leads such as online contacts and details of a planned meeting.
  • Call the police. Have an officer take the report at your home. Give him/her a recent photo of your child and a description of his/her clothes, including jacket, shoes and knapsack colours. Record the officer’s name, badge number, telephone, fax and report numbers. Ask who will follow up the initial investigation.
  • Ensure police enter your child’s name and description at the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and National Crime Information Centre (NCIC). This will not give your child a police record, but it may help find him/her.
  • Report your missing child to Child Find Ontario (CFO) at 1-800-387-7962. Have the police report information (as mentioned above) handy.
  • Child Find Ontario will help produce posters or fliers if it becomes necessary. Place them in store windows and hand them out at truck stops, youth-oriented businesses, hospitals, treatment centres and law enforcement agencies. Request permission first. Keep track of all posters and remove them once your child has returned.
  • Keep a notebook by the phone. Record all information about the investigation, including all conversations and people you’ve spoken with.

Research also shows that very few leave their immediate community; they will usually stay with friends. Most runaways come home of their own accord.


  • Be happy. Many teens fear the initial meeting with their parents. Remain calm. Express relief and tell your child you love him/her and that together you will solve any problems.
  • Make follow-up phone calls. Let all your contacts, including the police, know your child has returned home. Police may need to speak or meet with your child.
  • Allow time to settle in. Your child may need a shower, a meal, clean clothes, or sleep.
  • Get medical attention. Visit your family doctor to address any medical concerns.
  • Talk with your teen. Discuss how you can work together to prevent him/her from leaving again. Acknowledge some problems take time and effort to solve. Be sure you resolve the problems safely and reasonably.
  • Look for assistance. People and organizations in your community can help counsel your family. Child Find Ontario can refer you to an appropriate agency. Asking for help is a sign of strength and shows you are taking the issue seriously.

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