No announcement yet.

my 16 year old ran away

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • my 16 year old ran away

    we are legal guardians of my 16 year old niece. she ran away. i have a few questions
    1. can we be held liable for anything she does?
    2. if she doesn't not wish to return home, how do we relinquish guardianship
    3. if she does return and want to stay, how do we manage her, as parents; obviously she will lose many privileges like allowance, telephone, internet and tv
    4. are we required to let her move back in?
    5. after how long can we legally donate her stuff to charity and move on with our lives.
    6. what can do do, legally, to the parents that harbor her? can we have them arrested for kidnapping?
    7. can we have her sent to juvenile jail?

    i know this must sound terribly cold. but we are really struggling with this.

    please advise,

  • #2
    Re: my 16 year old ran away

    Thank you for contacting us at the National Runaway Switchboard. It sounds like you’ve got a difficult situation with your niece right now. First and foremost we are not legal experts, but we will try our best to answer your questions in a general sense.

    1. As far as liability, if a youth runs away from home, many parents or guardians choose to file a runaway report in order to protect themselves from being held liable while the youth is outside their care. If you would like to know more, you should be able to call your local police department for specifics. Or, if you would like to share where you are located, we could provide you with legal aid referrals.

    2. As far as relinquishing guardianship if she doesn’t wish to return home, this oftentimes involves a legal process. States that offer emancipation usually follow rigorous guidelines that can vary from state to state. Most commonly the requirements include being at least 16 years of age, living separate from parents/ guardians with their consent, holding a job, enrollment in school or a GED program, and the ability to financially support oneself. The court would then have to rule emancipation in the best interest of the youth and the whole process can oftentimes be expensive and time consuming. Again, we are not legal experts, but if you would like more detailed information we can try our best to point you in the right direction.

    3. As far as if she does return and want to stay, have you thought about how you will deal with the situation? It sounds like you have already considered taking away privileges, but is counseling or any other sort of intervention an option? If it is a case where she has frequently run away, some states offer programs through the juvenile court system called Minor in Need of Supervision (MINS) or Child in Need of Supervision (CHINS). This is also a legal process, but it can make it so there are consequences for running away. To find our more, we could provide you basic information if your state offers MINS/ CHINS, or an equivalent program.

    4. As far as if you are required to let her move back in, legal guardians generally hold the responsibility to provide a place to stay (or an agreed upon alternative place) until the youth reaches the age of majority. Some states even have “lockout laws” in which you cannot legally lock out or refuse a minor to come home if you maintain guardianship. Oftentimes, Child Protective Services will recognize such refusal as neglect.

    5. As far as legally donating her things to charity; that might depend on how you define her belongings. If you are referring to things that you have purchased for her, then there may not be a time limit. However, have you thought about how your niece might react to that decision? Again, we are not legal experts, so if you wish for more specifics, you could contact your local police department.

    6. As far as consequences for harboring your niece, this can vary from state to state, and oftentimes is at the discretion of the police department. Other factors which sometimes change the situation are whether the person harboring is a family member, friend, has knowledge that she is a runaway, etc. If you would like to know the criteria for kidnapping charges, you may have to ask for a juvenile police officer or a lawyer.

    7. In response to juvenile jail, this can oftentimes be difficult unless your niece has been in legal trouble. Many times juvenile jail requires some sort of referral (i.e. a Parole Officer). An exception may be if you are in an area that offers a MINS/CHINS, as we have described above. Because MINS/CHINS usually follows a procedure of diversion, the family and youth generally have to have exhausted all other options if juvenile jail is an option.

    We hope that helps and if you need anything else you are welcome to contact us at 1-800-RUNAWAY. We are not here to judge you if you are concerned about sounding cold. We are here to listen, provide support, provide basic general information, and can offer local referrals. Best of luck!
    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)

    Tell us what you think about your experience!


    Previously entered content was automatically saved. Restore or Discard.
    Insert: Thumbnail Small Medium Large Fullsize Remove  
    or Allowed Filetypes: jpg, jpeg, png, gif, webp