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8.32.2 Children and Families who Go Missing

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Last reviewed in November 2019

Next review in November 2021


Recognition and Referral

Professionals in local agencies should be alert to the possibility that an expectant mother / family missing appointments or repeatedly being unavailable for home visits may indicate that a child or unborn child is at risk of, or is experiencing, Significant Harm.

Professionals should take reasonable steps to reassure themselves as soon as possible that an expectant mother/family is not missing, whereabouts unknown.

Professionals should involve all the agencies with current or recent contact with the expectant mother / family to assess the child's or unborn child's vulnerability.

Professionals should consider questions such as:

  • Is the mother under 18, are they subject to a Child Protection Plan and/or a Looked After Child?
  • Is there good reason to believe that the expectant mother / family may be the victim of a crime?
  • Has there been a pre-birth conference for the child and is the unborn child subject to a pre-birth child protection assessment?
  • Are any of the children the subject of Child Protection Plans?
  • Is the family currently subject to a Section 47 Enquiry?
  • Is there a person present in the household or visiting the mother with previous convictions for an offence against children, or other person who poses a risk of harm to children?
  • Is it clear that the expectant mother / family is missing, whereabouts unknown?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, or an agency reaches the judgement that a child or unborn child is at risk of Significant Harm on the basis of the assessment, a referral should be made to Children's Social Care in line with the Making a Referral Procedure and, in the case of missing person's whose whereabouts are unknown, the police Missing Person's Unit.

If the expectant mother is a child, then the Reporting Children who Go Missing from Care Procedure should be followed.

The assessment may have been very brief because the degree of concern for the child(ren) or unborn child may have triggered an immediate referral to LA children's social care and the police.

Immediate Action

The manager of the List of Child Protection Plans must be informed if a child subject of a Child Protection Plan or an unborn child subject of a pre-birth Child Protection Plan goes missing.

Children's Social Care, the Safeguarding Investigations Unit and Police Missing Person's Unit should exchange information and work together.

Children's Social Care must complete the assessment of risk to the child / unborn child, and of their needs. The assessment will require Children's Social Care to engage with all the agencies that have current or recent involvement with the child or expectant mother / family. Existing records in these agencies must be checked to obtain any information which may help to trace the mother / family (e.g. details of friends and relatives), and this information should be passed to the police officer undertaking enquiries to trace the mother.

Children's Social Care should consider whether to notify members of the missing expectant mother / family's extended family, and if so how.

Strategy Discussion

If, following the above procedures, the expectant mother / family has not been traced, a Strategy Discussion should be convened within five working days.

The Strategy Discussion should consider whether the details of the expectant mother/family should be circulated to other local authorities. If so, then the LA child protection adviser should notify other LA children's social care services and Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships.

The Strategy Discussion should also consider whether other agencies could be notified (e.g. designated nurses in CCGs can be notified in writing, and they may circulate details to neighbouring maternity units and health visiting teams).

When the Expectant Mother/Family is Found

When an expectant mother / family is found the police must be informed so that they can cancel the missing person report.

When an expectant mother/family is found, there should, if practicable, be a Strategy Discussion between previously involved agencies within one working day, to consider:

  • Immediate safety issues;
  • Whether to instigate a Section 47 Enquiry and any police investigation;
  • Who will interview the expectant mother / family;
  • Who needs to be informed of the expectant mother / family being found (locally and nationally).

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This page is correct as printed on Tuesday 24th of November 2020 10:55:18 PM please refer back to this website ( for updates.