28 APRIL 2005



Up to 60 Christchurch runaways in 'safe' shelters

An 11-year-old runaway missing for two weeks has highlighted an informal network of 都afe houses for absconding Christchurch children.
Social agencies estimate up to 60 runaways may be housed by 電o-good citizens and those whose intentions are not so pure. They say about 20 children are living rough in abandoned buildings or on the street in Christchurch but triple that number are given shelter by people wanting to help or exploit them.
The missing Child, Youth and Family (CYF) runaway, Ben Crafts, continues to elude authorities two weeks after escaping from his social worker's care. Grave fears are now held for his safety.
Trystan Swain, a youth worker for 109 Youth Health Centre, said under-16-year-olds on the run from their caregivers or CYF regularly showed up at the clinic.

展hile there may appear to be only less than 20 under-16s crashing on the streets at any one time, there are many more who drift from house to house every couple of days.
Swain said he knew of several young people who had existed for up to six months without money through being housed by 杜ainly kind and well-meaning people. Many of the houses proved dangerous, with youths 堵iven drugs and alcohol and then facing 吐orceful demands for sex. Many young people had older men offering them a place to stay in return for sex, Swain said.
The Salvation Army's street outreach service director, Major Bob Millar, said it was common for people to pick up runaway young people off the street.
典here are a number of people who will see kids on their own and take them in. These people think they are doing a good thing but they are actually working against all the people who are trying to help these kids, Millar said. 的t's a very dangerous practice for those who are doing it because they are not looking after their own safety or the best interests of the child. Millar estimated up to 60 runaway children were in Christchurch at any one time. He said he knew of several people who took children in, often in pairs, and provided food and shelter for up to several weeks until the child moved on.

Susan Lewis, a family law expert and counsel for many CYF wards and their caregivers, agreed with Millar's estimate of the scale of Christchurch's runaway problem.
Lewis said many of her clients had talked of 都afe houses located in the central city and suburbs such as Linwood and Aranui. Runaways either found out from other CYF wards about established homes where young people could seek shelter or were approached in public places by other runaways or older people providing accommodation.
Lewis said she knew of four CYF wards who had escaped from care since the beginning of the year, but was sure there were more represented by other law firms. Most people who offered shelter to runaways had good intentions, but it was a dangerous situation because runaways were prey to unsavoury characters, she said.
Christchurch police Senior Sergeant Gordon Spite, said runaways were often harboured by people trying to help them, but these people often caused greater problems.

的t's a frustrating part of a police inquiry knowing that someone is looking after these children who thinks they are doing good, but who is actually putting the kid's parents and other people who care about them through hell.
The people who housed runaways were breaking the law because the runaways should either be living with their parents or as wards of the state, he said. Spite said the number of runaways sleeping on the streets or in abandoned buildings was usually up to 20 at one time.
Meanwhile, Child, Youth and Family says it cannot prevent young people absconding from some types of state care. This was the third time Ben Crafts had eluded a CYF 鍍racker by telling them he needed to use the toilet and then making a run for it. Southern regional director Paula Attrill said: 擢rom time to time, despite the best planning in the world, kids will be kids. They vote with their feet and run away.

27 April 2005,2106,3261061a11,00.html

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