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My niece in another state who is 17 living with grandparents

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  • My niece in another state who is 17 living with grandparents

    Has been told if she wants to leave and move out she can. Excpet these grandparents are know for lying and are probably just trying to see will help her so they can get the ppl locked up who help her. We told her to get the grandparents recorded saying this so we know we have proof of consent and nobody has to go to jail. She is mentally abused and even physically at times but there is no proof. It is her word against theirs. Any advice will help!

  • #2
    Hey there!

    First and foremost, thank you for contacting us with your niece’s situation. One of the worst things that can happen is watching a family member being abused and feeling helpless to stop it. Your niece does not deserve to be treated like this—especially by her guardians. They should know better and be better. We are so sorry this is happening to her and your family.

    You are doing everything right. You did not provide which state you or she are in, but we are still able to go through Runaway Laws with you. Running away is not illegal, but it is a status offense. The Judicial Court system may become involved, but this is usually in more consistent cases of multiple attempts to run away. There are two runaway laws to be aware of. First is running away itself. If the minor leaves home without their legal guardian’s permission and the legal guardian goes to the police to file a runaway report, the police will look for the minor. This is contingent on the guardian filing the report. The second is called “harboring a runaway.” This is an offense applicable to anyone over 18 who the minor is found to be staying with by the police. However, these laws differ from state to state, county to county. It will benefit you to find out what runaway laws are in her area by calling the local police. Sometimes they do not accept runaway reports for minors who are 17. Also, because she is so close to 18, she may not be a priority for them to search for than say an 11-year-old who ran away. They may not actually look for her at all. But, if the grandparents suspect where she is staying, they may send the police over to check it out. The police/grandparents may only charge the adult IF they find your niece.

    You should also be aware of kidnapping laws. It is illegal to bring a minor over state lines. If you pick her up and take her over to your state, you may be charged with kidnapping a minor. You may send her money without a stated, documented intention and she may use it to travel to a safe place. You are right to get the grandparents’ permission documented either by written consent or verbal recording. It sounds like they are psychologically manipulative and would punish your niece and whoever will support her.

    You have the right instinct about gathering proof. If you call her state’s Child Protective Services she will have a huge amount of sway in her case if she has photos or recordings of the abuse. It will be hard to substantiate it otherwise and CPS’s priority is the keep families together as well as child safety. If she is able to gather proof, it may be a good idea to send it to a safe person or you yourself so that you may hold the evidence for her in case her grandparent’s find her recordings. There is a hotline that specializes in child abuse for you or your niece to call to gather more information from or for support:

    Child Help (National Child Abuse Hotline)

    School might be another resource. Teachers, administrators, and counselors are mandated reporters. This means they MUST report the abuse if it is suspected or brought to their attention. If there is someone in the school who she trusts and feels safe with, it would be beneficial to ally themselves with her case. A school counselor might also help your niece process the abuse and give her coping mechanisms to manage the psychological effects of the abuse. If she does come to live with you across state lines, and if her grandparents don’t come searching for her there, she may enroll in the school local to your area. The McKinley-Veto law that prohibits the school for asking the address of an enrolling student.

    You may pursue legal action, but documentation of the abuse would be critical to winning the case. It is likely that the case would be dragged on for months. We do not know how close your niece is to 18, but by the time the case could reach court she may reach that age. It may also cost you depending on the law agency you contact. We have some agencies that sometimes work pro-bono or for a reduced price. If you tell us the state your niece is in, we can provide you with the law agencies.

    We hope this was helpful information. It sounds like you have thought of most of this. Your niece deserves someone like yourself who is willing to go to all corners of the internet and to pursue every option for her safety and well-being. You are an incredible person and we wish the youths we work with had someone like you in their lives. You are the family your niece deserves.

    Best wishes,

    Please remember you can reach us directly by calling our 24 hour hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our Live Chat.

    National Runaway Safeline
    [email protected] (Crisis Email)
    1-800-RUNAWAY (24 Hour Hotline)

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