Missing from Home & Care

What does Missing From Home and Care mean?

Missing From Home and Care (MFHC) is defined by:

Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established will be considered as missing until located and their well-being or otherwise confirmed. All reports of missing people sit within a continuum of risk from ‘no apparent risk (absent)’ through to high-risk cases that require immediate, intensive action.

What are the safeguarding risks for a child who goes missing?

When a child goes missing, this can be linked to wider safeguarding concerns. Some of the risks associated with children who are missing from home and care include:

  • Being in unsafe places, with unsafe or risky adults;
  • Being more likely to be involved in substance misuse;
  • Being more likely to be involved in anti-social or criminal offending behaviour;
  • More likely to be involved in child trafficking or child exploitation;
  • Less likely to be socially and educationally engaged

This means that children who go missing, particularly where this is regular and / or connected with other types of vulnerability are more likely to be suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm.

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No child should feel alone

November 2017

The Children’s Society, have produced a short clip to help illustrate the risks children can face when going missing. The clip is centred around children going missing from home at Christmas but this can be applied to wider contexts.

What can make a child more vulnerable to going missing?

It is important to remember the risks faced by children who go missing are the same regardless of how often they have gone missing from home and care. Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, some of the additional vulnerabilities are listed below:

  • A child being a victim of a serious crime
  • A child being involved in any recent arguments or disagreements
  • A child having been the victim of a recent violent, domestic, homophobic or racist incident
  • Self harm
  • Bullying
  • Sexual Exploitation, Criminal Exploitation, Modern Day Slavery / Trafficking, Honour Based Abuse, Forced Marriage, Female Genital Mutilation or Stalking
  • Whether a child is likely to visit someone who may be violent, sexually abusive, is known to pose a risk to children or likely to supply them with drugs or alcohol

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What to do if a child goes missing from home and care?

If you are working or volunteering with a child who you think has gone Missing From Home and Care after all reasonable attempts have been made to locate them, you should advise their parent or carer to report them as missing to West Yorkshire Police in the first instance by calling 101, unless it is felt there is immediate danger then 999 should be called.

The police have an approach in place which will be initiated depending on the child’s level of risk, and will offer appropriate support to a child’s family whilst they are locating them.

Once a child is located and returned home, the police will carry out a home visit to conduct a safe and well check on the same day, ahead of the Children Vulnerable to Exploitation (CVE) & Missing Service making contact and carrying out a Return To Home Interview within 72 hours.

  • What is a Return To Home Interview?
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    A Return To Home Interview is an in-depth conversation with a child who has gone missing from home and where appropriate involving members of their family. In the Wakefield District, a Return To Home Interview is undertaken by a trained practitioner from the Children Vulnerable to Exploitation & Missing Service.

  • What is the purpose of a Return To Home Interview?
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    A Return To Home Interview can:

    – Help understand and address the reasons why a child has gone missing

    – Identify harm that may have occurred whilst a child was missing

    – Allow actions to be identified to prevent further missing episodes and reduce any additional risks

    – Help a child feel safe

    – Ascertain if a child and family would benefit from further support and provide further information on how to stay safe

    – Identify any concerns in relation to any inappropriate/manipulative / exploitative relationships

    – Identify if a child is involved in child exploitation

Services in the Wakefield District


  • NWG Network Podcast
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    Including Parents and Carers when their child goes missing

    NWG and Missing People discuss a strengths based, whole family apprroach to working with families when a child goes missing and is at risk of exploitation in this short podcast.

    Missing People are a national charity providing support to children and adults who are thinking about going missing, or who are already away, and to the families and loved ones who are missing someone. They have a specialist service SafeCall for families and carers of any child who is being criminally exploited. If you need support, or want to refer someone you’re working with please visit the website or call 116 000 for confidential, free support.

  • When Megan Started to go Missing
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    Real life story of Megan, who was 13, started to go missing from school. An NWG Resource.

    Read Megan’s story

Further Reading

For operational guidance in Wakefield in relation to Missing From Home & Care please view the following:

  • Appropriate Language in Relation to Child Exploitation
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    This document seeks to provide guidance to professionals on the appropriate use of language when discussing children and their experience of exploitation in a range of contexts.

    To access the guidance, please click here.

One Minute Guide
  • Missing from Home & Care (MFHC)
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    A missing person is “anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established”.  A person will be considered missing until they are located and their well-being or otherwise confirmed. Read more and download here (coming soon).

    To view the Child Exploitation series of One Minute Guides visit our Child Exploitation Learning and Development page and read more about online, child criminal, child trafficking, modern slavery and financial exploitation.

Developing skills and knowlegde around children missing from home and care
  • Text link image Learning & Development
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    Access the range of Child Exploitation training, development and resources from WSCP, as well as signposting to local and national services on our Child Exploitation learning & development page.

    There you will find links to current training offers, one minute guides, briefings, learning from reviews and signposting to local and national services that can help you with developing your skills and knowledge around Child Exploitation.

  • How Professional Curiosity & Challenge can help you
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    Being professionally curious and challenging is essential when it comes to identifying types of child exploitation, as some may occur in isolation whilst others alongside each other. It can be difficult to distinguish what type of exploitation a child is experiencing but having a contextual safeguarding approach to your assessment will help you to identify, prevent, disrupt and stop exploitation. Risks posed to a child may vary but can be as serious as death, we must therefore ensure the correct safeguarding response is considered when a child is being abused.

    To understand what is meant by professional curiosity and challenge in the district and how to adopt this approach, please click below.

    Learn more about professional curiosity and challenge on the WSCP webpages here

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