NASP Communiqué, Vol. 34, #1
National Runaway Switchboard: Listening to and Advocating for Youth
One in seven children runs away from home before the age of 18. Annually, the number of runaways is estimated between 1.3 and 2.8 million young people. The disruption this causes in their own lives is significant. Deciding to run away from home also has an impact on the larger community, including school.
When asked their primary reason for running away from home, 38% of callers to the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS) point to the dynamics within their own families. In many respects, there is also indication that communication between the parent and child has broken down or is absent. Given the phenomenal popularity among the young to text messaging and blogging, youth have an obvious desire to make their opinions and thoughts heard.
The National Runaway Switchboard, a 24-hour crisis hotline (1-800-RUNAWAY) for runaway and homeless youth, has been providing advocacy and service to youth for over 34 years. NRS also collaborates with other agencies that provide positive alternatives to youth in crisis. The need for improved communication between youth and adults was highlighted this spring when NRS and Uhlich Children’s Advantage Network (UCAN) conducted a press conference in a Chicago magnet high school to release the 2005 Teen Report Card. The Teen Report Card provides high school students across the country an opportunity to grade adults on areas that impact their lives. Throughout focus groups leading up to the press conference and at the press conference itself, teens emphasized the need for better and more meaningful communications between themselves and the adults in their lives.
Understanding the needs of youth can act as a wonderful deterrent against their taking radical actions like running away from home. Through partnerships like those with UCAN, the National Runaway Switchboard helps bring attention to the things youth believe they need to feel both safe and respected.
National Runaway Switchboard