The risk factors for running away from home or state care are multifaceted, and there is no typical runaway. However, research suggests that there are some factors that may increase the likelihood that a child runs away, and describe the endangerments a child faces when they run away.
- Multiple Placements: While youth in their first state placement are not likely to run (especially younger children), the greater the number of placements, the greater the likelihood of running away.
- Family Attachment and Separation: Children in care may run away from their placements to reconnect or reunite with their non-custodial family.
- Gender-Related Experiences: Research suggests that girls are disproportionately more likely to run away from home or state care, as well as run away at an earlier age compared to boys. This difference between the genders may be explained by factors that are disproportionately experienced and/or reported by girls such as sexual abuse and family instability.1, 2
- Involvement in gangs or child sex trafficking: In 2016, 11% of endangered runaways reported to NCMEC were believed to be involved in gangs, with an additional 18% of children likely victims of child sex trafficking.
1 Thrane, L.E., Hoyt, D.R., Whitbeck, L.B., & Yoder, K.A. (2006). Impact of family abuse on running away, deviance, and street victimization among homeless rural and urban youth. Child abuse & neglect, 30(10), 1117-1128.
2 Tyler, K.A., Hagewen, K.J., & Melander, L.A. (2011). Risk factors for running away among a general population sample of males and females. Youth & Society, 43(2), 583-608.