Bring Them Home: How to help runaways

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- They are the faces of young lives, interrupted, with worried, anxious families waiting in the distance.

None of us wants to imagine what it would be like if we sent our kids off to school or to a friend's house and never saw them again.

Yet every 40 seconds in this country a child goes missing.

For the past month, we've delved deeper into this under recognized problem prompted by the little girl whose face and name we cannot get out of our head - eight-year-old Relisha Rudd.

On this journey, we've learned that most children who go missing aren't abducted or kidnapped. But on our very first day of this campaign, we got a call from an enraged father who demanded we take down pictures of his kids.

It turns out they were entangled in a messy custody dispute. Police tell us that this is common in cases where kids go missing, but they say most children go missing because they run away.

The cases often end with smiles, hugs and happy reunions.

For example, 10-year-old Kevin Salgado finally returned home after a bad hair day prompted him to skip the school bus and sulk the day away in a stairwell.

We've tweeted - and you've retweeted, the faces of missing children thousands of times during our month long campaign.

WUSA9's Lesli Foster has even heard directly from one teen who claimed that she wasn't missing and urged that her picture be taken down. Lesli tweeted back, letting her know she was happy to hear that she was okay.

After seven days on the run, the girl returned home the next morning.

When children runaway, you can excavate a whole laundry list of complex reasons behind that decision.

Conflicts. Abuse.

Whatever the reason, children who run matter.

They matter because they can run from one set of problems to a situation that can be far worse.

Gangs. Sex Trafficking. Homelessness.

As a parent, Lesli hopes you'll do your part, whatever you can, to find out what is eating away at your child before a crisis emerges in your family.

Talk to them.

Find out what's going on in their world.

Are they acting differently? It could be a very loud call to action.

Kids from every socio-economic bracket run away from home.

Remember, the teenage brain is still developing. Wired to rebel. Prone to impulse.

In the effort to Bring Them Home, the best advice is to do all you can as parents and caregivers to keep them home.


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