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July/August 2011Vol. 12, No. 6Runaway Youth in Foster Care

The National Runaway Switchboard (NRS) conducted a research study in 2010 on runaway foster youth to learn why youth run away, what can be done to prevent youth from running away, and where youth go when they leave. As a part of the study, 50 youth who had run away from foster care in the previous 12 months were interviewed. Half were living in Chicago and half in Los Angeles County, and all were between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. The results of these interviews have been published by the National Runaway Switchboard in a short paper.

The interviews with runaway foster youth show some consistent findings:

  • The two reasons youth gave for running away were wanting to be with family or friends and being unhappy with their current placement.
  • Most youth returned to foster care voluntarily because they wanted to go back to school or home or wanted to stay out of trouble.
  • A majority of the youth ran away to a friend's house or spent the night at a relative's home.
  • Many of the youth felt they needed someone to talk to and that they could not talk to their foster parents.
  • Youths felt that caseworkers did not provide enough support and that the caseworkers should have visited more frequently.

This brief, Running Away From Foster Care: Youths' Knowledge and Access of Services, can be downloaded from the NRS website: (358 KB)

The original 2010 report, Why They Run: An In-Depth Look at America's Runaway Youth, can be found on the website: