Runaway Child Laws

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Runaway children are defined as children under the age of eighteen, the leave home with the intention of not returning. The child may have left the home alone or with another party who is not a parent or guardian. Many states have laws on how to deal with runaway children and consequences for their actions.

Against the Law

Any child who is a minor and is not emancipated who runs away from home is considered to be breaking the law in certain states. There are nine states with runaway laws regarding minor. These states are Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming, according to the American Bar Association. In these states running away from home is only illegal if the person is under eighteen. The other states do not consider a child leaving home a legal offense, but the child may be ordered to appear before a judge to determine the reason for running away.

Child In Need of Supervison

If a minor continues to runaway frequently, they can be labeled as a habitual runaway. With this the courts may order that the child is in need of supervision. This is ordered because the court has determined that the parents are not capable of taking care of the child. The child in need of supervision process is used in 34 states, according to the American Bar Association. With this program the child may be required to take mandatory drug testing, receive fines and punishments and at times suspend the driving privileges of the teen.

Taken in To Custody

Children identified as a runaway can be taken in to custody by the legal authorities, according to Us Legal. Most times, the authorities take the children back to the home. If the parents choose not to have the runaway return to the home, the child can be take to Social Services or a detention center, shelter for minors or a program for runaways.


About the Author

Melanie Jones has been writing professionally since 2010. She is currently completing a master's program to become a physician assistant. She has previously worked as a neurosurgical physician assistant extender. She obtained her bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University.

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