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Child exploitation

Prevent a young person going missing

Close-up of a young woman, taken from waist-height, as she looks at her phone. Her face is not visible. Overlaid is text that says: "Spot the Signs Poster Hub".

Awareness of Child Exploitation (CE) has risen dramatically in recent years as the scale of the problem was unearthed in areas across the country. The issue has since been covered extensively on the news, in documentaries and TV dramas; but our teams find the early signs of exploitation are often still missed by the adults around a young victim.

For this reason, we have produced a series of posters that shine a light on this issue, and the ways to help a young person. The materials are most relevant for professionals who work with children, but are useful for anybody who wants to know more about Child Exploitation and Missing From Home.

This poster looks at the signs that young people might show before they leave, and how adults can act to prevent these missing incidents.

What should I look out for?

  • Changes in a child’s behaviour or how they present themselves. Are they outgoing, but have become shy? Have they started dressing or presenting very differently?
  • Becoming secretive or withdrawn. Is a usually friendly child suddenly hiding their activity?
  • Evidence that they are subject to physical or emotional abuse
  • Isolation from friends – or signs that they are isolating themselves. Are they moving themselves away from friends they’ve known for a long time?
  • Signs of mental health problems and emotional wellbeing problems
  • Changes to their regular friendship group. Are they hanging out with a different crowd?
  • A breakdown in relationships at home and/or school
  • Non-compliance to boundaries. Is a previously well behaved child suddenly ignoring boundaries?

What should I do?

  • Make sure that the responsible adults in their life understand your concerns.
  • Keep open your lines of communication. Try to remain calm and collected with the child, rather than getting angry.
  • Talk to them about the risks associated with going missing, and ensure that they know where they can access independent support (see below).
  • Ensure they have their phone charged and have credit so are contactable and can contact someone for support.

Professional support and advice

Alert a professional if you have any concerns. Catch22 have missing services in locations around the UK, visit our website to find out if there’s one near you. If there isn’t, contact your local children’s social care team. Whether your concern seems small or large, they will be able to direct you to a local support service.