Partners for Our Children


Fewer Foster Teens Are Running Away in Washington State

As a child, did you ever think about running away? Maybe it was due to a fight with your parents or because you thought you did something you’re parents wouldn’t approve of. Whatever the case, it’s something that a handful of children – particularly teens – consider from time-to-time.

If children who live at home with their parents have these thoughts, it’s not a stretch to assume that some teens in foster care also consider running away at times. Suddenly, these teens are cared for by a new family, have new rules and live in a new home. Life is already confusing as a teenager, and having your whole world turned upside down can be overwhelming. It’s also an age when children naturally want to test their power and independence – so running away might seem like the best choice in a situation when they may feel like they have very little choice.  

But running away can be incredibly dangerous – everything from high risk of sexual exploitation to drug use. Since the safety of children is the top priority for our state’s child welfare system, they try to mitigate situations where a child may run away while in foster care. It’s no easy feat – and honestly, it’s a hard measure of success to live up to because no matter how hard workers or administrators try, there are some teens that will do everything in their power to run away.

The good news is that the overall risk of foster children running away is decreasing. Older children in the child welfare system are at a slightly greater risk of running away than younger children, however, the risk of children running away has been decreasing for youth in all age groups.


For more information on the runaway rate and other system measures, download POC’s Annual Report of Child Welfare System Performance. Information on the runaway rate can be found on page 22 of the report.