A local high school student, Chris Carpenter, recently became the focus of an extensive search when he ran away from home. Fortunately, for Carpenter his story has a happy ending. Yet for that one week, Carpenter became one of two million runaways on the streets.
More than 2,000 kids are reported missing across the country a day and 40% of those calls are runaways. Right here in Naperville police see about 10 to 15 runaway kids each month.
“Children run away for a variety of reasons,” said Sergeant Gregg Bell, Naperville Police Department. “Maybe they got punished, so they think ‘Well I’m going to show mom and dad so I’m going to run away.’ Sometimes religion comes into play. If they engage in activities their parents don’t approve of they may runaway, so there’s a whole host of things.”
Police say there are a number of risks kids can face when they run away like exploitation, drugs, illegal activities, prostitution or kidnapping. They say if your child doesn’t arrive when they say they will to call the police immediately.
“You should never wait if you’re child is missing and you don’t have an idea as to where they are at,” said Sergeant Bell. “Call us right away. The minute a parent calls us and they make that report then we get the process going.”
Police will continue to search for the kid and even ask neighboring departments for assistance until the child is found. Once they are found, they will call the parents of the child and sometimes they need outside help.
NCO Youth and Family Services offers counseling for kids in many different situations, but it’s also one of three state funded Comprehensive Community Based Youth Services in DuPage County. The program offers 24 hour a day seven days a week crisis help to youth who have run away or been kicked out.
“Once we get there, we do our part to collaborate with the officers, parents, nurse, whoever is involved,” said Angella MacDonald, Specialized Youth Service Coordinator for NCO Youth and Family Services. “We think of how we can resolve this immediate crisis of the kid refusing to go home, and what can we do to offer long term services to address some of the bigger issues that can’t be solved overnight.”
Authorities say there are a few indicators in runaway behavior such as legal trouble, dropping grades, bullying, drug use, psychiatric issues, family conflicts or depression.
“Many families, when they get to the point of showing up at a police department whether they’ve run away from home or have been locked out of the home, it’s gotten pretty serious when it reaches that point,” said Angela Michalak, Clinical Director at NCO. “We just want people to know that there is a place in town that can service them.”
In extreme cases where a child can’t go back home, NCO will help find a third party solution.
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