Some children who run away sleep rough on the streets, but others quickly end up out of sight - hidden away with someone they barely know. Predators can spot a vulnerable child a mile off and they know just how to manipulate them.
Children don’t run away from the one place where they should feel safe for no reason. Some are running from violence or sexual abuse. Others run because of what they see at home: drug abuse, parents on the edge, a family at war.
When we find a child who’s run away, it’s not enough to just take them back home. We need to find out why they felt they had no choice but to escape. Otherwise they will run away again - to much worse dangers than they faced at home.
Railway Children train people on the ground to look out for vulnerable children like Megan. When - and if - it is safe to return home, our family workers help families rebuild damaged relationships and break the cycle of violence, neglect and abuse that can travel down through generations. We help parents make their homes happier, safer and more nurturing - so their children have no reason to run away. It requires intensive support and it takes time. But it works.
Last Christmas Megan’s family fought non-stop - often physically. Getting all the family together meant Megan had a visit from her abusive uncle and she saw him beat her mum. She felt tense and alone at home. All she wanted was to feel noticed, understood, loved.
Our family worker helped Megan's mum rebuild their family so that she could keep Megan safe. Today Megan is happy and looking forward to Christmas at home.
You can help us reach more families at breaking point this Christmas so that children don't need to run away.
Names changed and models used to protect identities.