What To To When Your Child Runs Away

what to do
  • If your teenager is gone for over 24 hours, or if you have reason to suspect foul play, call the police.
  • Contact your teenager’s friends, their parents, and school staff. Express concern and clearly state your willingness to work out any problems that might exist.
  • Put out the word asking that your teenager check in, just to let you know they are safe. You may want to offer an alternative contact of an adult you both know and trust.
  • Call UAY at: 1-800-850-3051and speak to a counselor.
what not to do
  • Do not threaten the school, friends, or parents. These people may be potential allies. They are the most likely to help if they understand that you are willing to listen to your child and be open to other perspectives. Even though you’re very worried, remain calm. Threatening statements or making accusations only reinforces the notion that you are an unreasonable person. If you have reason to believe that specific individuals are harming your child, pass that information onto the police.
  • Do not “storm” a relatively safe place that your child might be staying. If they run out the back door you’ll have no idea where they are. They might also run to a less safe harbor.
basic facts:
  • 60% percent of runaway episodes last 1-3 days.
  • 40% of runaways return home at their own initiative.
  • 50% stay within 1-10 miles of home.
  • The majority of teenagers who run do so because of a problem they perceive to be unsolvable.
  • Forcing a child to come home without resolving the problem is likely to result in another runaway incident.

When Your Child Is Home

The teenage years can be an uncertain time for both teens and parents. At this stage of child development things seem to change overnight, and the confidence with which you’ve parented up to now may be slipping away. If you’re feeling out of touch with your teen, your teen may also be feeling out of touch with you or themselves.

Try to open the door by:

  • Spending time with your child. We know they may resist. Consider inviting them to do something they’ve enjoyed doing with you in the past. If they hesitate, assure them that there won’t be any guilt trips or lectures, you’re just in the mood to have some fun. Keep that promise! If they aren’t available, refuse to take it personally. Just make an appointment for a future date.
  • If your child starts a conversation with you, be sure to give them your full attention.


United Action for Youth
Mailing Address
P.O. Box 892
Iowa City, Iowa 52244
Fax: 319-337-7999

Main Office and 24 Hour Crisis Line
1700 S First Ave Suite 14

Youth Center
355 Iowa Avenue