Children run away when they don’t feel safe at home. But, alone with nowhere to go, they often put themselves in even more danger. Predators can spot a vulnerable child a mile off.
Last Christmas Megan’s family had a visit from her abusive uncle. Megan saw him beat her mum. Megan’s family life was violent and scary. She felt tense and alone at home. She was being bullied at school. All she wanted was to feel noticed, understood, loved.
A man in his forties - known to police for hanging around young girls - had been grooming Megan. The worse things got for her at home, the more easily he could exploit her.
A couple of months after Christmas, Megan went missing. The police found her the next morning. She’d spent the night in her abuser’s bedsit. Megan was 14.
The police asked us to help Megan and her mum, Sue. We gave the family two support workers - one to be there for Megan and another to support Sue.
Our family worker, Gina, could see Sue was a loving mother. She’d been trying to protect her children but she struggled to communicate with them.
Sue had been neglected and horribly abused throughout her own childhood. Her abuser hadn’t gone away. She also has a learning disability, which makes relationships and daily life hard for her. She was doing all she could to keep her daughters safe but it wasn’t working.
Gina became a friend and a role model to Sue. She helped her to understand her children’s needs, support them better and keep them safe.
Today Megan feels happy and safe at home. She’s not in contact with the man who exploited her and she hasn’t gone missing again. For the first time in years, Megan’s looking forward to a peaceful, loving Christmas with her family.
A family worker like Gina fights to get children out of danger and heal damaged families. She can stop abuse in the home - and beyond it.
Once a child has run away once, they often do it again and again - going missing for longer each time. It will keep happening until we break the cycle.
A family worker can make sure a child like Megan is safe in her home and help her whole family come to terms with the years of abuse they’ve faced. A worker like Gina won’t stop fighting until she’s changed the life of a vulnerable child. For good.
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.