Runaway factor: Desire to be independent spurs children to leave home

08 Jul 2019 / 12:53 H.

PETALING JAYA: The yen for freedom is the main reason children run away from home, some never to be seen again.

The numbers speak for themselves. From 2013 to 2016, a total of 4,188 teenagers left home to escape a regimented or “claustrophobic” environment at home.

Friendship and love are the next most common reasons for such disappearances. Within the same period, 1,330 children left home to be with their friends, and another 1,025 eloped with their lovers.

Then there are those who left over misunderstanding within the family (715 cases), lack of interest in school (150 cases), seeking employment (101 cases), custody disputes (64 cases) and lack of family attention (81 cases).

According to criminologist Asso Prof Dr Geshina A. Mat Saat, there are also cases of special needs children wandering out of their homes and losing their way.

More sinister are cases of children abducted for human trafficking, organ harvesting or forced labour.

Thousands of children are reported missing each year. Some eventually return home while a handful end up dead. Many remain missing.

Several cases of children being sexually assaulted and subsequently murdered have also been reported.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail told the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday that among all the children reported missing since 2011, 363 have yet to be found.

Citing police statistics, she said 15,042 children were reported missing from 2011 to May this year. Thus far, 14,679 have been accounted for.

Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development minister, said of those accounted for, 26 turned up dead but the rest have been reunited with their families.

Public involvement is an important factor in helping the authorities find missing children and some corporations have responded positively.

More than a decade ago, RHB Banking Group launched an initiative to help locate missing children by displaying their pictures and personal details at its branches across the country.

Perak police chief Datuk Razarudin Husain said the police also engaged the media to help publicise information on missing children.

“Pictures of these children are also on display at public places and all entry and exit points around the country,” he said in a statement.

“We view this very seriously, given the risk of them being abducted for human trafficking.

Razarudin said police also review each case every six months to look for new indicators or information that could help them find the child.

Geshina pointed out that it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure their children’s safety.

“Parents should not transfer or force such responsibilities onto other children, teachers, neighbours or relatives,” she said.

Under the Child Act 2001, the parents or guardians have the ultimate responsibility.

“Just telling the child (not to wander about) is not enough. It must be accompanied by safety training and self-empowerment that is age-specific.”

She said some children do not even know their own names or the names of their parents until they go to school.

“Many don’t know where they live and identify themselves as ‘adik’ and parents as ‘ibu’ or ‘ayah’,” she said.

Geshina recommended the use of wrist bands that not only identify the children and their guardians but also carry a tracking chip that can help to locate them more easily.

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