When Kids Go Missing

Let me start this post, by saying that at our school, we have robust procedures that are followed, when ever a pupil in our care goes missing. However, there is not enough awareness of runaways and why they do it and I hope this post will help to give an incite into why kids runaway and as a school, how we deal with such issues.

Young People go missing for several reasons. Sometimes an argument causes youngsters to run away, sometimes it can be caused by bullying, sometimes it’s an act of rebellion and sometimes, kids just go missing for the thrill of it. When any of the kids in our care go missing, We as a school, have a “duty of care” and part of that duty, it is paramount that we act quickly and professionally and that the boy in question is found quickly.

So what do we do when one of our Young People go missing?

The 1st thing we do, is to do an extensive search of the school grounds, including the unit the young person is on and the main school as needed. We also put an alert out to all staff via staff radios. If a search brings no results, we ask the Boarders on his the unit, if they had seen the boarder in question. (Sometimes telling us about a den in the grounds or somewhere the boarders go when they want to be along, helps us to find the young person.) We also will try the young person’s mobile to make contact. (Each Unit has a list of young people’s mobile numbers.

If that doesn’t bring any results, I will get a phone call. I could be out with the kids or in the bath, but it means I need to get over to school ASAP. I will then be handed information about what has happened, at what time and those involved. Next, I call the Police (999)  and report the young person as missing. Meanwhile staff will search the Young Person’s room, to see if they have left any clues to where they are going. Meanwhile, I will go to Sam’s office and view the CCTV footage, to see which way the young person left the site and which direction he went.  I then have the wonderful job of phoning the boy in question’s Parents and informing them that their son is missing and  we have the Police out looking for him. I also have to contact Karen (our Head Teacher) and brief her. I then will ring the boy’s Social Worker (or the Emergency Duty Team if in the evening or at weekends or a Bank Holiday)

The Police will search his room, as well as speaking to pupils and staff, look at the CCTV and  circulate the information about the boy in question.  Meanwhile a spare member of staff will take the school car and drive around the local area. Sometimes it’s possible to find the boy in question, quite easily. I also will go through the browsing history on the unit PC’s as sometimes that gives us a clue on where they may have gone. I can get this from the Server for the networked PC’s in J Block,  which keeps a log of EVERY site they visit, even if they think they can be crafty and delete the browsing history on the PC. (The server is actually in the Server Room next to my office, so I can get to it quite easily if needed. Our Network interfaces the main school network and uses Community Connect. It means that the kids can access their files from school, via the same network.

Sometimes the Police bring the Young Person back and sometimes they come back on their own. When they return, a member of staff will call me and I will come back over to school. (Unless I am working, as I will already be on site.  A member of staff will remain with the boy in question, while I undertake a “return interview”. The return interview is not about telling the boy off for going missing. Instead it is about establishing why he went missing and how we can further support him. Of course, I will mention how dangerous going missing is. I remind the boy in question that he can come to me or any member of staff, if something is bothering them. If he wants to talk to me and I am not on shift, he can write a note and ask a member of staff to put it in my pigeon hole in the post room, on the ground floor of J Block; or use the computers on the units and send me a email. (Above the computers on the units is a poster, which has my work email address on it.) When I am back on shift, I will happily have a chat over a cup of tea. Of course, if one of the boys is distressed, I can be called and I will happily drive over to school. (In my Morris Minor of course!)

Finally, I have alot of paperwork to do when a boy goes missing, which is placed in his file, which is locked in the unit office filing cabinet.

When a boy is offsite, our staff are trained not to give chase. As stated above, a member of staff will drive round to try and locate the boy in question, while the group Leader will use their school mobile, to phone me. The police will be involved, if the boy in question is not found quickly and usual procedures will be followed.

I have only ever had to deal with a runaway once in all the time I have worked for the school. However, I think it is something that should be highlighted and that was why I wrote this article.

One Very Angry Head Of Care!!!!

Update: One of the 2 boys was suspended from school for 2 weeks, while the other was given 2 weeks detention, put on report and was grounded for 2 weeks.

I am not impressed at all tonight and am rather disappointed. I had a call at 7.30 this evening, after one of the staff on Birds, called to tell me that 2 boys, (both 9) had been bought back by the Police, after smashing a window on a house down the road.

Not only had they both been involved in the incident, they had also snuck off school grounds, without gaining permission from their Unit House Parent. By doing so, they could of put themselves in danger, as they are not allowed off site normally, unless with a member of staff.

As for breaking someone’s window, words do not even come close to how disappointed and how angry I am with both of them. The Police wanted to know why they broke the window and were taken into the Quiet Room for this, with me as an Appropriate Adult. After getting a right telling off from the Police, they were told to sit outside the Unit Office and wait for me to finish speaking with the Police Officers. Both got away with a simple Police Caution.

Once finished with the Police, the 2 boys were taken to the Unit Office, where they did get a good grilling. I told them that they are in the biggest trouble yet and that this could have serious repercussions, which may result in the pair of them being expelled from our school. However, this is not up to me and is up to my boss Karen, who is Head Teacher at our school. The boys knew it was serious when they were told to address me as “Mr McLaughlin” instead of Kyle. If one of the kids are told to address me as Mr. McLaughlin out of school hours, they know they are in BIG Trouble.

The behavior they display outside of our school does have an effect on the school’s reputation in the community. Breaking a window for the fun of it, which is what the pair said was the reason they broke the window and because they said they were board, is not acceptable behavior. I have grounded the pair of them, but that does not get them off the hook. I have said that the pair of them must be in line sight of a member of staff at all times, (Except for when they use the toilet, are taking a bath or are in bed) their pocket money is being docked, to pay for the repair to the window and tomorrow, the pair of them will be going in the school car, to visit the old lady, (who had her window broken) to apologize.

People look at me and think “Kyle is a right pushover”. The Chubby Ginger bloke who wears a kilt to work. But I can be serious and when needed, I can exert my authority when needed, so when something like this happens, heaven help you!

I sent my handy hubby (Sam) round to the old lady’s house, where he has boarded up the window for her and removed the shards of glass. She was very thankful for this and I also went down to see her, to let her know that the 2 boys that broke her window are NOT getting off lightly. She was very nice and made me a cup of tea. She was telling us about the school and how different it was in the 1940s. It was interesting to see some really old photos.

I hope that such severe punishment, (which I had discussed with Karen over the phone) will make them think about what they have done and will remind them that their actions have consequences. If they had of been 10 years old, they could of been arrested and put in front of a Magistrate on Tuesday morning. They would not be able to hide behind me or the school (not that I would let them, as criminal damage is serious) and would more than likely be expelled there and then. They also know I had to make a phone call to both of their parents, to tell them what their boys had been up to and to reassure them that this is not being taken lightly and that their bad behavior is serious enough to warrant suspension or expulsion, which then would result in their care being handed back to their parents. Also I shall be speaking to both of their Social Workers on Tuesday about this. (By then, I will know the fate of the pair and if they will be allowed to remain at school, with punishments being given between me and Karen.)

On a care side of things, I can dish out punishment and if instructed to by Karen, I will. This could include restrictions on leaving the building, (J Block) being made to go to bed early or given community service on the school grounds, while being supervised by a member of staff. (IE: Litter picking, extra chores etc) While Karen may impose punishments such as: Being on Report, (Having to report to a member of staff at certain points in the day and having that member of staff sign a sheet, if they have attended and have behaved) and detentions \ after school detentions.

Bottom line, what they did was unacceptable and school is taking this seriously. For tonight, they have had a grilling from me and sent to bed early. I have had to write a report and speak to members of staff about this incident. (None of the members of staff I have spoken to, recall being asked to leave the school grounds.) Even if they did, they would of clearly been told no – they may not leave the school grounds unaccompanied.

So thanks to that, Family Night got wrecked, as I was baking with the kids, when I got called into work. But that’s part and parcel of the job. It may of been my day off, but in this job, but when I get that call, I always have to answer.

Special Care

Today, we had a new arrival to the family. His name is William, (But we all call him Will) he’s 13 and been put into long term care with us, after serving 2 years for drug offences in a Young Offenders Unit. Originally, he was to be released to the care of the Foxes Unit, which is a secure care unit. However, I managed to persuade the powers that be, that a more family based environment would be better. This took a lot of meetings and visits with Will, Social Workers, Youth Offending Team (YOT) staff, Prison Parole Teams and his Mental Health Workers. This happened over several months, dating back to February, when the planning of his release was being formulated. Will had said that he had been to Children’s Home after Children’s Home and had not been properly understood and that his actions were due to his mental health. While inside, Will did get mental health support and he was finally given a diagnosis, with the correct support. (Medication and therapies and also support to stop him messing with drugs again)

Sam and I are probably the 1st Foster Carers to ever directly take on a young person released from Young Offenders, but we are not being left in the dark. Will has been made an appointment to see his Youth Offending Worker every week and he is also being fast tracked to receive community mental health support. He is also tagged and is not allowed out after 7pm. (But he can go in our garden)  We also have Social Services support and we have the number of his Parole Officer if we are concerned about him.  He will be attending out school as a day pupil, but for the 1st few weeks; he will be taught on the Day unit on Sick Bay, while he gets used to being out in the community.

Sam and I decided that it was best that he arrived without the other kids being around, so that he could have 2 or 3 hours to relax and to get to know his way around the house and for Sam and I to get to know him outside the . (We sent the kids bowling with Jenny. We have not told the kids about his background, but we have said he has been in trouble with the Police and is currently on curfew. We have not said anything else and we are letting Will tell the others, if and when he feels ready. He seems to be getting on really well with the other boys and already seems to be finding himself part of the family.

Hopefuilly we can help him to stay clean and stay out of trouble. Sam has said that if he goes to all his YOT meetings, therapy sessions and stays clean off the drugs (Possession of Coke was what he was sent down for) and complies with his curfews and house rules, Sam has said he will buy Will a decent Mountain Bike, which is a good way to help him stay on the straight and narrow, as he has something to focus towards.

Lets hope he does 🙂