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Breakfast Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 07:05 GMT
Running away from home
cctv image of naomi and her boyfriend in a Midlands shopping centre
Fifteen year old Naomi Mills was discovered safe and well last night, after running away with her 22-year old boyfriend.

Her case is far from unusual: around 100,000 teenagers go misssing each year.They make up almost half of the total number of people registered missing.

A large proportion of young runaways are girls aged between 13 and 17, and like Naomi, most of them return home within about 72 hours of disappearing.

  • So what drives young people to run away in the first place - and how can parents help keep their children safe, sound - and close to home?

    We talked to Celia Duncan of CosmoGIRL! magazine and Janet Norman of the National Missing Person's Helpline.

    "It's a difficult time in their lives, when hormones kick in, " Janet Norman told us.

    The recurring themes in runaways' stories are disagreements with families (sometimes over boyfriends), pressure at school, and the amount of freedom a teenager is allowed at home.

    Occasionally children run away for good reasons, she added, such as avoiding abuse. But, by and large, most teenagers can be helped to return home.

    "Until you are a parent yourself, you do not realise hjow much your parents love you and how much they suffer.

    "Children who run away from home really do not realise the anguish they put people through - but the majority come back very quickly."

    Many children do confide in someone - often a friend of their own age.

    CosmoGIRL's editor Celia Duncan, who conducted a survey on teenage runaways last year said:

    "We found 60 per cent of our readers had thought about running away.

    "Seventy per cent had told a friend they were running away. If you are a friend, you must break that confidence, to let the family know your friend is safe."

    Making the call home is often very difficult for a runaway teenager. Many think they'll get into trouble. They don't realise that their families are more worried than angry.

    "One of our most moving stories, " said Celia, "was from a girl who ran away from home just for a lark.

    "She got worried about ringing home and stayed away for 30 days, because she was too scared to make the call."

  • A recording of this interview will be available shortly

  • If you have run away from home, you can get a message to your family on a free phone line: Message Home Helpline: 0800 700 740

  • The National Missing Persons Helpline is for families reporting people missing. That number is 0500 700 700.
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    04 Mar 03 | England

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