Information for Parents - fort lauderdale

Why kids run away or get thrown from home

Each year in every Florida thousands of teens run away or get thrown from home — kids from every city, neighborhood, and school. Many of them are going through normal changes — both asserting independence and making mistakes — that are part of growing up and defining their identity. Others are in abusive homes or in families undergoing emotional or financial stress. And some are abusing drugs or alcohol, are involved in gangs, or have serious behavior problems — situations that their families don’t know how to handle.

Some reasons why kids leave home:

  • significant lack of family communication
  • feelings of not belonging or not being good enough
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • fighting or violence between parents
  • problems with parents or blended families (step-parents, step or half-brothers and sisters)
  • problems with non-parental living situation (other relatives, foster care, group home)
  • parental alcohol or drug use
  • kids’ alcohol or drug use
  • loss of a parent due to divorce or death
  • sexuality/teen pregnancy
  • financial difficulty — ongoing or unexpected
  • moving to a new area/school during adolescence
  • friend/peer influence
  • power of gangs

Warning signs of a troubled teen

As children grow into teenagers, it’s common for them to want to make their own decisions and begin to take control of their lives. Many seem to reject just about everything their parents have taught them and think the opinions of their friends are far more valid than those of their parents. Nevertheless, no matter how much they may say otherwise, most teens truly want their parents to help them sort out the difference between normal adolescent behavior and indications of serious problems.

  • extreme mood changes or rebelliousness
  • very poor self-esteem
  • withdrawal from family and long-term friends and/or new friends of whom you don’t approve
  • drop in grades/skipping school
  • remarkable change in appearance, such as major weight loss, lack of attention to personal hygiene
  • isolation/depression
  • lying or stealing
  • beginning or increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • suicide threats
  • violent outbursts
  • gang tattoos or paraphernalia
  • possession of a weapon

What happens to kids who leave home

Some common runaway experiences:

  • going from friend to friend or relative to relative — not belonging anywhere
  • sleeping in bushes, cars, abandoned buildings
  • missing or skipping school, eventually dropping out
  • being hungry, sometimes not eating for days
  • trying to find a job with no consistent home for showering and washing clothes
  • if working, not earning enough to live independently — plus, most landlords will not rent to juveniles
  • hanging out more and linking with other street kids
  • having belongings stolen, including identification
  • panhandling and stealing
  • using drugs and alcohol, often excessively
  • having sex with someone for a meal or a place to stay which may lead to multiple sex partners or prostitution for money
  • dealing drugs
  • becoming ill or getting injured as a result of living on the street, for example skin diseases, upper respiratory infections, blistering and infection from sun exposure, sexually transmitted diseases, and trauma or wounds from fights
  • getting arrested

What to do if your teen runs away from home

Most kids who run away return within 48 hours. However, any teen who leaves home needs to know someone, somewhere cared enough to look for him/her. Don’t panic and do your best to prepare for your teen’s return.

Steps to locate your teen:

  • call the police and give as much information as you have; make arrangements to give them photos
  • start a notebook, recording the officer’s name and badge number, then record steps as you take them
  • call your teen’s friends and check his/her hangouts
  • call area hospitals
  • make fliers with your child’s photo and a description of identifying characteristics (braces, piercing, tattoos, distinctive accent, etc.) — include how to reach you and the law enforcement agency handling the investigation
  • get in touch with runaway shelters in your area and in neighboring states
  • call runaway hotlines to leave a message in case your teen calls the hotline
  • prepare to deal with the issues in your teen’s life when he or she contacts you or returns home — talking to a counselor about your own feelings may be helpful
  • listen to what your teen is saying and work together with a counselor to resolve your conflicts

How to get help

It can be overwhelming for teens and parents to try to figure out what to do when they’re having problems. The reality is that frequently kids don’t understand parents, and parents don’t understand kids — but the street is never a good choice for any youth. Most teens and parents can get through tough times if they resolve conflicts with discussions, not arguments — and if they recognize when they have a family dilemma they can’t solve on their own. If you or someone you know is in a difficult situation, learn more about resources for help — and ask someone for direction.
Note: 800 numbers are toll-free, even from a pay-phone.
24 Hour Referrals

National Children Information Clearinghouse          1-800-356-4774
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children  1-800-843-5678
National Runaway Switchboard                                   1-800-621-4000
Hearing Impaired                                                             1-800-621-0394

Operation Home Free coordinated through National Runaway Switchboard (youth 12-18 may receive Greyhound transportation home provided parents have filed a missing person’s report)
For access to additional local referrals, contact your school district’s guidance or social work department, your pastor, or your local helpline.





Fort Lauderdale

Covenant House Florida 733 Breakers Avenue Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304 Phone: (954) 561-5559 | Fax: (954) 565-6551 | Toll-Free: (800) 683-8338


Covenant House Florida 5931 E. Colonial Drive Orlando, FL 32807 Phone: (407) 482-0404 | Fax: (407) 482-0657 | Toll-Free: (800) 441-4478