A child in care goes missing in Wakefield every day, report says

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At least one foster child living in Wakefield is reported missing every day, figures have revealed.

A total of 380 cases were recorded across the district between June 2017 and May 2018.

The figures cover all children in care who are reported missing to Wakefield Council, though the length of time they are absent from home can range between a couple of hours and several weeks.

The cases involved a total of 167 youngsters, as some went missing on more than one occasion.

And although less than one per cent of children in Wakefield are in care, they make up nearly a third of all missing children cases in the district.

Charity Barnardo’s say that the reasons why foster children run away from home are “varied”.

Carron Fox, from Barnardo’s policy and public affairs team, said: “Often the reason relates to why a child is in care in the first place.

“If they are in care then they are likely to have come from a situation that’s probably very traumatic.

“Sometimes it’s because they are placed out of area from their original homes, and so they go missing because they want to go back to where they were.”

Government guidance to local authorities says that an interview should be conducted with the child and foster carers within 72 hours of the youngster being returned to safety.

This is designed to establish the reasons behind why they went missing, though there must be consent from the child or their carer for this to take place.

Ms Fox said this process was significant in helping to prevent repeat cases. Barnardo’s sometimes carries out the interviews on behalf of or with the local authority.

She said: “Return home interviews are so important for us because that’s an opportunity for the young person to sit down with an adult they can trust and build up a relationship with.

“They need someone they can talk to about why they’re going missing, especially if it’s a repeat occurrence.”

Pam Allen, the council’s interim service director for safeguarding, said: “The children in our care will always be our top priority.

“The number of children missing from home or care has reduced significantly since this time last year. Following each incident, interviews are offered but children, or their parents, have to consent to being interviewed.

“When consent is given we will always strive to complete that interview within 72 hours.”

Numbers breakdown

Number of children currently in care in Wakefield – 532

Number of “episodes” where a child in the care of Wakefield Council went missing between June 2017 and May 2018 – 380

Number of individual children in care reported missing between June 2017 and May 2018 – 167

Number of children (in care and not in care) reported missing in Wakefield during same timeframe – 791

Total number of “episodes” where a child (in care and not in care) went missing – 1183