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Runaway teens

I'm a third year CYC student but I'm also a 911/call taker for our local police department. I run into the issue of older teenagers who run away to a friend's house (especially on Friday/Saturday nights) and the parents don't know what to do so they call police. By law there isn't much the police can do as the parent knows where the teen is, the teens well-being is safe and the police cannot forceably remove the teen from the house. What can I say to the parents who call me frustrated and angry because they turn to the police for help but we can't help them? I want to know as a future CYC worker, what can I say to the parent to guide them to the right direction?

Thanks
Jennifer Wellwood
Fraser Valley - BC
...

Jennifer, if running away on the weekends is a pattern that parents don't have much control over, it may be a kind of warning that there are other unsupervised behaviors turning into risks. I wonder if the police department has a community relations officer that might be willing to work with you to start a group for parents and youth, and if not a staff member at a local community center. A good question also to ask would be what are the fun and safe activities for youth that could serve as an alternative to running away for the weekend?

Good luck.

 Andy

Dr. Andy Munoz, Ed.D., CYC-P
Vice President & Director
Academy for Educational Development
Center for Youth Development & Policy Research Washington, D.C.
...

Hi Jennifer - over the years I have had to place many police reports, even when I knew the likelihood the child was not at risk was high. What has worked the best for me is when the police come over and CALL the youth's friend's house and either speak to the youth's peer or peer's parents who are either harbouring knowingly or unknowingly this youth. Usually this results in the youth returning, albeit not too happily. Then it is up to parents to set boundaries with their youth, their youths friends and parents, around this issue. So, is the youth getting drunk or high and unable to return on his/her own? Are there consistent curfews and logical consequences that have been negotiated between the youth and their families, so everyone is on board? Etc., etc. Sorry, I'm going away from your question, however a parent really deserves to feel supported, and in my experience the police can be a great source of support if there is a necessity.

Diane Rapkoski
...

Hi Jennifer,

First of all, thank you for doing the job that you do. 911-Dispatch is a very important responsibility.

As for what you can tell parents who are freaking out because their teen is in unsavoury or unsafe environments, it boils down to trust and open communication. What kind of relationship do they have? I'm not certain which services you have in your community. Perhaps you can refer them to Child and Family Services...

As a parent, I made sure I was on the same page as my children. If I did not feel comfortable with a situation, we would discuss it with RESPECT for one another.

Maybe the teen is running away for a reason...? Good Luck, I'm sure you'll figure it out :-) Take care,

Louise B. YCW

...

Hi Jennifer,

Is it the parents of the teen who you are getting calls from? I suspect this is what you were saying.

Although I'd be inclined to seek some direction from a superior so as to ensure you are responding within the ethical guidelines of your position, I can see how the CYCer in you is curious about how to respond in such a situation!

I personally feel that in a situation such as this the teen is running away from something. Who knows what that is but by the definition of running away from something then maybe a suitable alternative for the parents is to contact a Family Therapist or Youth Services Bureau for more assistance or at the very least some other options. Every community is different but in offering those two options one would hope the parents would follow through and be able to identify where strain is in the relationship.

Not sure if others will agree with that response. I too am a CYC student (mature) but after checking with my superiors and how they wish for me to respond as their employee this is what I may do (if they want you to say anything at all).

Good Luck!
Julie
Ontario
...

Are the police able to talk to the teen? Can you get insight on what to do from them?

Donna Wilson
...

Hi Jennifer,

Of course the law differs from country to country. Parents have the right to exercise reasonable (not harmful) control over their minor children. I would advise parents in such a situation to go and collect their child from where she/he is staying, as well as discuss it seriously with the adults in charge there. Any parent who allows teens over without the consent of the parents is taking a risk, and could even run into legal problems. If the parents address the matter with the adults where their the child stays over, and come to an agreement, then the teen cannot repeat the same situation (unless with someone else). Of course it will be very embarrassing to have their parents arrive and take them home, however, this is a natural consequence for leaving without permission. Another important consideration is that when a teen leaves without permission, there is obviously something amiss in the parent-teen relationships, and the parents would do well to find some counselling (with or without the teen if she refuses) so that they can not only take the necessary action, but also do it in such a way that they not push their children further away from them, but try to strengthen a relationship that is already weak.

Hope this helps

Werner van der Westhuizen,
...

Jennifer,

Explain to these parents that the police are unable to remove their child from the home, when they know where they are they are not considered missing. As a residential youth care worker we make many phone calls to the police to report missing residents but we typically only call the police when we do not know where they are. As a youth care worker you will be typically notifying social workers when they are missing and every facility is different as well as province. The parents need to seek out advice away from the police as most know that it isn't the job of the police in that situation. They are not doing anything wrong and they are someplace safe, or hopefully safe. I hope that helps.

My biggest advice is to be honest to those parents. As a YCW it is different as you have protocols.

Ashley Gibbs
Nova Scotia
...

Hello Ashley,

Thanks for your response. I found in my current job, people rely on the police for everything other than a babysitter! They are normally at their wits end and they have nowhere else to turn to. I try to explain to them that the Ministry of Children and Families (MCFD) isn't always a negative place to turn. People believe they are only there to remove children from unsafe homes. I try to tell them that they have programs or counseling for parents as well as teens. I try to educate them on places they can go or other people they can see such as MCFD or a help line. That is pretty much all I can do. Due to my job, I'm not at liberty to recommend programs to people because of the 'hat' I'm wearing but it's good to know that I'm on the right track.

Thanks again
Jennifer Wellwood
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