When a teen goes missing from treatment, it can be a terrifying situation. While undeniably difficult, our team at Ascend believes in ensuring that we help your family handle the problem in the healthiest way possible. We never take missing teens lightly, and going AWOL from treatment always requires parental notification. Unfortunately, teens often use running away to refuse treatment or test the boundaries of their relationship with their residential treatment center. If you’re worried about your teen running away from treatment, let us guide you through the process and what we do to ensure their safety.
Dangers of Teens Refusing Treatment
When a teen runs away repeatedly or stays missing for long periods of time, there is some risk to their continued mental health. However, there are several essential things to keep in mind:
- Teens aren’t “bad” for running away from treatment.
- You’re not a bad parent for having a child that goes AWOL from treatment.
- Even if a teen is AWOL, one of our staff members is always within line of sight.
The fact that a teen goes missing from treatment doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t know where they are—it simply means they’re not abiding by the rules of the treatment facility. At Ascend, we don’t believe in physically restraining our clients, so sometimes, your teen may test those boundaries by attempting to leave. One of our team members will follow and maintain a line of sight on your child while attempting to convince the teen to come back.
Many of our clients find that they have the urge to run away because they haven’t figured out how to process or control strong emotions. However, as they learn better coping mechanisms and skills, the chances that a teen goes missing from treatment dramatically decrease.
What to Do When Your Teen Goes Missing from Home
In treatment, we always have eyes on our clients, but kids often run away from home for similar reasons that teens go missing from treatment. If you’re worried about a runaway teen, you can prepare for the worst by following these steps:
The first thing to do if your teen runs away is to begin a quick search for them. Start by checking around your house and common hang-out spots or safe spaces. Teens often don’t realize how transparent they can be about where they spend their time, so try to search their go-to places first. You can also start calling their friends and other family members to see if they’ve heard from your teen.
Call the Police
Always make sure you call the police as soon as your child goes missing to get the ball rolling on a search effort. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to wait any amount of time before calling the police. You can also request that the officers or investigators put your missing child on the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Persons File, as you don’t have to worry about a waiting period.
Take Extra Steps
If your teen is still missing, you should start to organize a local effort for a search within your community. You might create posters, set up a hotline, and ensure you’re available if they choose to reach out.
Help From Ascend
At Ascend, it’s rare for teens to go missing from treatment, as there’s always enough staff to keep a close watch on them. We also use unique techniques that make it more difficult for them to leave, like removing access to shoes, redirecting them whenever they talk about going AWOL and providing them with constant activities to keep them occupied when they aren’t in therapy.
Learn more about how we keep your teens safe when you reach out to us at 310.388.3713 today.