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Children and Families who go Missing (including Unborn Babies)


For information in relation to missing from education see Children Missing from Education Safeguarding Practice.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Children Taken Abroad
  3. Children's Social Care Responsibilities
  4. Local Authority Point of Contact for Children Missing from Education
  5. Health Services
  6. Resources


1. Introduction

It is important that agencies have their own procedures for attempting to locate missing children/families and that information is shared amongst them, where there are safeguarding concerns. Children’s Social Care and the Police should be informed immediately.


2. Children Taken Abroad

Where it appears that a child, for whom there are outstanding concerns about their safety and welfare, may be removed from the UK by their family in order to evade the involvement of agencies with safeguarding responsibilities consideration should be given to appropriate legal interventions.

In the case of children taken overseas it may be appropriate to contact the Consular Directorate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which offers assistance to British nationals in distress overseas. Details to be found at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office telephone 020 7008 1500.

See also Working with Foreign Authorities: Child Protection Cases and Care Orders Departmental advice for local authorities, social workers, service managers and children’s services lawyers July 2014.

When a child, who is subject to a Care Order, has been removed from the UK, Children’s Social Care, the Police Protecting Vulnerable People Unit and the Child Abduction Section at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should be informed immediately. Please also see Forced Marriage Safeguarding Practice and Honour Based Abuse Safeguarding Practice Guidance.


3. Children's Social Care Responsibilities

3.1 Children who go Missing and have a Child Protection Plan

When a family moves to an unknown address either in or outside the Authority and there are child protection concerns about the child/family, Children's Social Care will:

  • Notify the Manager of the List of children subject to Child Protection Plans (Independent Conference and Reviewing Officers’ Team) using the Notification Form; and
  • Take steps to trace the child through other agencies in collaboration with the Police, e.g. Health records, Education Welfare records, Job Centre Plus, the Child Benefit agency, other Local Authorities, Probation, as appropriate, and NSPCC.

The particular vulnerability of children fleeing domestic abuse should be acknowledged and all efforts to trace these children should be made (see Domestic Abuse Safeguarding Practice Guidance).

Where efforts to trace the child through the above sources fail, the Manager of the List of children subject to a Child Protection Plan will send an alert to notify all Child Protection Plan List Managers nationally (or to particular areas if there is reason to believe that the child/family may have gone there e.g. as a result of family connections) with details of the child and family. Prior to such a request authorisation must be gained from the Team Manager responsible for the child’s case and this should be recorded on the Notification Form and forwarded to the Designated Manager (see Section 3.3, Responsibilities for Collating Information on all Children and Families who go Missing).

Removal of such a child's name from the Child Protection Plan List should not be considered until 6 months have passed, and all reasonable efforts to trace the child have failed. The question of whether a child still needs a Child Protection Plan may then be considered at a Child Protection Review Conference, at which reports of the search efforts are made available.

3.2 Children who go missing from home or their care placement

Looked After Children may run away, or go missing from home or their care placement. The various agencies responsible for the care of Looked After Children should understand their respective roles in these circumstances. Please see Children and Young People who Run Away/Go Missing from Home or Care.

3.3 Responsibilities for Collating Information on All Children and Families who go missing

Children’s Social Care, as the lead agency, has the responsibility for collating information on all children and families who go missing. Each local authority has a Designated Manager who is responsible for ensuring notifications are dealt with properly. In Hull this is the ICRO Team Manager.

All missing children and families should be recorded by Children’s Social Care on their database (LiquidLogic), with a Missing Person warning indicator. The Independent Conferencing and Review Officer (ICRO) Team have responsibility for these and their Admin Support team should be notified of all Missing Persons, so they can input this information, and also be notified when the person’s whereabouts becomes known (see Notification Form).

3.4 Notifications of Missing Children and Families from Other Local Authorities

Hull Children’s Social Care receive notifications from other local authorities when a child or family in their area is missing.

These are not Hull children and families. Notifications from other local authorities are directed to ICRO Business Support. If the following criteria are met, the details of the missing persons will be entered onto LiquidLogic with a Missing Person warning indicator and, in the case of expectant mothers, the notification will also be sent to Hull Royal Infirmary for the attention of their Midwifery section:

  1. There is a clear link to our locality e.g. the other local authority says the child has family in the Hull / East Riding of Yorkshire area or have lived here previously;
  2. If the Notifications come from our three neighbouring local authorities: East Riding of Yorkshire County Council; North Lincolnshire Council or North East Lincolnshire Council;
  3. Applying risk management principles: if there is information indicating a very high risk to the child/family. Examples might be where they are linked with an adult convicted of murder, trafficking cases, forced marriage or honour based abuse risks.

When local authorities make a notification to ICRO Business Support, they will be informed of the above criteria so they can ensure that Children's Social Care are notified of any local links

The Missing Person warning indicator on LiquidLogic will be removed either when the originating Local Authority advises that the child or family's whereabouts have been identified or after 2 years if no further information is received.

If the whereabouts of a child/family become known, the Designated Manager should be informed promptly so that the Missing Persons warning indicator and national alert can be adjusted accordingly.


4. Local Authority Point of Contact for Children Missing from Education

There is a Child Missing Education (CME) named point of contact in every local authority. Every practitioner, in all agencies working with a child has a responsibility to inform their local authority CME contact if they know or suspect that a child is not receiving education. For more information please see the Children Missing from Education Safeguarding Practice Guidance.


5. Health Services

Health services providing care for residents in Hull are expected to have systematic and robust arrangements in place to identify children (including unborn children) missing from health services, so that suitable provision can be made for them through the most appropriate agencies to ensure that they are safeguarded and their welfare is being promoted. 

5.1 Missing Families – Concern for Child’s Welfare

Where a health professional has concerns regarding a child/unborn baby’s welfare and the child/family/pregnant woman is missing, it is expected that reasonable enquiries should be made with the General Practitioner, Health Visiting/School Nursing services, Obstetric and Midwifery services and any other professionals involved to ascertain their whereabouts. Discussions should take place with the Service Manager or Safeguarding Practitioner/Team within the organisation. If the child/pregnant women remain untraced, consideration should be given to making a referral to Children’s Social Care Services for further assessment.

Looked After Children missing from their placements are particularly vulnerable, with Looked After Children in residential care at particular risk of going missing.

Practitioners should always refer a child or unborn to Children’s Social Care where:

  • There are concerns about their welfare;
  • The case is currently open to Children’s Social Care;
  • The health professional considers they may have gone missing in suspicious circumstances (with or without their families) and there are developing concerns for their safety;
  • There has been a previous referral to Children’s Social Care.

Where there are child welfare/child protection concerns, a missing family alert for all children/unborn will be generated by the health provider safeguarding team who identified the children/unborn as missing. If an unborn child is missing the Named Midwife for safeguarding children is contacted via telephone in the first instance, with a copy of the missing alert being emailed to: hey.safeguarding@nhs.net. A missing child notification should be placed on to the child(ren’s) electronic and paper records.

N.B. If the family are believed to be in another area of the country, an alert will also be sent via the Named Nurse Child Protection in those areas.

In the event of the whereabouts of the family becoming known, the Safeguarding Children Team for the health agency responsible for raising the missing alert should be notified and a traced notification will be sent out to the recipients of the missing alert and the case holder.

5.2 Missing Families not Involved with Children’s Social Care

City Health Care Partnership (CHCP)

Where it is suspected that a child and their family are missing, but are not subject to any known child welfare concerns, all appropriate checks will be made by the health professional / team with responsibility for that child/family. Health Visitor, School Nursing and vulnerable children teams are responsible for undertaking a series of checks to ascertain their whereabouts (following internal guidelines and protocol for CHCP staff). When all of these checks are exhausted, both internal to health organisations and with any other agency with whom the child/family had contact with, a referral will be made to the Safeguarding Children Team (SCT) for further investigation.

If the family is not found in the UK, then this will be recorded in the child’s electronic care record. This ensures that, if they re-enter the UK, records are available to be called for either locally or nationally. A referral to Children’s Social Care will be made at any point in the process where concerns escalate.

When all other checks are completed and no information found the SCT will forward information to the Police Protecting Vulnerable People Unit for further checks. The Health Visitor, School Nurse or Support Services Team will continue to be responsible for the child and if not found, further checks will be made every 3 months. If still missing after 1 year all information will be reviewed and a decision made regarding communication with other agencies and long term storage of the child health records.

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospital Trust

Where it is suspected that a child and their family is missing, but are not subject to any known child welfare concerns, all appropriate checks will be made by the health professional with responsibility for that child/family. Midwives and Specialist Nurses are responsible for undertaking a series of checks to ascertain their whereabouts (following internal guidelines and protocol for HEYHT staff). When all these checks are exhausted, both internal to health organisations and with any other agency with whom the child/family had contact with, a referral will be made to the Safeguarding Children Team (SCT) for further investigation.

If the family is not found in the UK then this will be recorded in the child’s paper and electronic records where the child already has a record. This ensures that if they re-enter the UK, records are available to be called for, either locally or nationally. A referral to Children’s Social Care will be made at any point in the process where concerns escalate.

The responsibility for the on-going review of missing children will be that of the Universal Records Holder. The responsibility for the on-going review of missing unborn will be that of the Named Midwife for Safeguarding Children until 3 months following the expected date of delivery.

Humber NHS Foundation Trust

Health professionals working for Humber NHS Foundation Trust should follow the process outlined in the following flow chart.

Click here to view Process for Children Missing to Children & Young Peoples Health Services Where Safeguarding NOT Involved Flowchart.


6. Resources

Other sources of information and advice about missing children are available from:

  • The National Missing Person’s Helpline includes both Looked After and Education sections on its site which is accessed via; Missing People website;
  • Parents and Children Abducted Together (PACT) website includes a Missing Children section and details on the national Child Rescue Alert system which was launched across all Police Authorities in England and Wales in March 2006.

End.