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My child has gone missing

Going missing can be the biggest sign that a child is being criminally exploited.

Young people may feel they have to disappear to survive and avoid harm to themselves and their families. This may start gradually with short disappearances, or your child may disappear for days or weeks. You should always report your child missing to the police.

The All-Wales Practice Guidance sets out what should happen when a child or young person goes missing. Read Safeguarding young people who go missing from home or care.

What to do when your child goes missing

Following these steps will help you with the processing of reporting your child missing to the police.

Check with friends and family

The police will ask what actions you have taken to find your child. They will expect you to have:

  • searched your home
  • called their friends
  • called family members
  • checked your phones for messages

Report your child missing to the police

If your child is still missing or is not where they are supposed to be, you should report them missing to the police. Do this by calling 101. The call handler will connect you to your local police station.

If you have reason to believe that your child is in immediate danger, you should call 999.

Raise your concerns about exploitation

Tell the police about your exploitation concerns and if they have been missing before.

If you have not already done so, complete a Philomena Protocol form about your child. The form can be completed at any time, so that you can send information about your child to the police quickly. It includes:

  • a physical description of your child
  • what they were wearing
  • friends’ names and contact details
  • places they are likely to visit

Return home interviews

Return interviews should be undertaken when a young person suspected of being criminally exploited goes missing. The role of the police may deter young people from confiding in them, so return interviews should be conducted by other practitioners.

When your child is found, the police or another professional should speak to your child. They will check your child’s health and welfare.

They will also try to find out:

  • where they have been
  • who they have been with
  • what they have been doing

The police or another professional may talk to your child privately. This is to make your child feel comfortable talking about what has happened to them.

Your child may be worried about how you will react to where they have been and what they have been doing. Try to remain calm and reassure your child.