Where are the children going? Caring for Children who may want to runaway.
posted: Jul. 29, 2021.
The largest segment of missing children is runaways and children who are told to leave home. Pediatricians play a role in helping reduce long-term health risks for those who consider running away or have already done it.
Every year, as many as 1 in 20 U.S. children and adolescents run away from home. When an adolescent leaves the home, it does not occur in a vacuum – it often occurs in the setting of a long history of trauma, family conflict, abuse, and/or mental illness.
In a clinical report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides guidance for pediatricians and health care professionals to help identify young people at risk of running away and to work with families to improve these children's physical, emotional and social needs.
The report "Runaway Youth: Caring for the Nation's Largest Segment of Missing Children," published in the February 2020 issue of Pediatrics is the first update to AAP recommendations since 2004. More than three decades of research has shown that runaways or "throwaways" – children and adolescents who are asked to leave home – are at high risk for additional trauma, victimization, and violence, and have unique health care needs.
"Many of these children wind up homeless and face daunting circumstances, including sexual exploitation and abuse," said Thresia B. Gambon, MD, MPH, MBA, FAAP, co-author of the report, which was written by the AAP Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health and the AAP Council on Community Pediatrics. "The long-term health impact of these scenarios can be devastating. It is our goal to support children, keep them safe and in a stable environment."