SOS-Criança has signalled 41 missing children [in Portugal] in 2010. Most of them ran away from home, but there were also parental abductions and flights from institutions. Some went missing for less than two days, others for over a year.
A report from SOS-Criança, an organization that was created in 1989 by the Child Support Institute (Instituto de Apoio à Criança) reveals that most of the children that disappeared last year had run away from home (25), but there were also 10 cases that were parental abductions and another six situations where the children fled from the institutions where they were staying.
Ten children were missing for less than two days and another seven for less than one week. The report further indicates that in five cases, the child managed to remain out of contact for one to two weeks, and three children disappeared for two to three weeks.
Three minors ran away for three to four weeks and another two remained unaccounted for a period over one month. In three cases, the minors disappeared for over half a year, and in four cases, for over nine months. The report further indicates that three minors remained missing for over one year.
Most of these children had someone “waiting for them”: 12 were with a parent, 16 with companions or friends and five with their siblings. Fifteen minors ended up returning “home” on their own, while in six situations it was the family or police (six times) that cleared the case. “Two children did not want to return home/to the institution, and nine have an open process”, the report mentions, indicating that 12 of the “missing” were repeat situations.
Concerning parental abductions, in 13 cases the parents were still married, eight were divorced, six were separated, and there were also two cases of people living together or single. The civil situation of the parents of nine missing children remains unknown until now.
Family conflicts are the most common motive for runaways
Family conflicts were the main motive for running away, followed by the internet and the influence of friends. "Domestic violence was responsible for four disappearances and abuse was responsible in three cases". The report further points out cases of psychiatric illness, neglect, behavioural problems, dating and even the story of a minor who ran away to attend a concert.
Last year, 31 girls and 10 boys disappeared, and most of the cases take place near the weekend: 11 on a Friday, seven on a Thursday and another five cases on a Monday.
As far as ages are concerned, there is no pattern: last year, two children aged two and six children aged three, five, six, seven, ten and eleven, but also five 16-year-olds and four 17-year-olds.
Most of them lived in Lisbon (11). In Évora and Bragança, four minor went missing in each of the regions. Setúbal, Braga, Coimbra, Faro, Leiria, Viseu, Santarém and Aveiro also registered cases.
In most of the situations, the alert was given by the family, but there were also eleven flights that were denounced by the community, and seven by professionals from institutions that are related to children. In two cases, the "fugitives" themselves contacted the SOS-Missing Child services.
Eight denunciations arrived at the SOS services by e-mail, while the other 33 arrived by phone, the report reveals, further indicating that the Missing Children Service has already signalled 318 cases over the years. Last year, there were 41 cases, half of what was registered in 2009, when the services signalled 88 missing children.
in: Público, 10.08.2011