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16 and 17, questions abt running from Florida

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  • 16 and 17, questions abt running from Florida

    I'm 16, and I'll be going to college out of state next year (so I'll be 17 by then.) My best friend (currently 15, would be 16 by the time he'd run away) and I have been talking about getting him away from his family next year.

    He's transgender, and his parents are extremely un-supportive, to the point where he's being moved to a different school because his parents believe our current school "made him transgender." His older brother is on the spectrum and has threatened him with physical harm, including banging on and breaking his door down when his parents were home. He's been close to hurting himself and has been suicidal, and despite going to the hospital for this his parents refuse to acknowledge anything or respect his identity. I believe CPS has been contacted recently, but there hasn't been anything serious enough to warrant taking him away from his parents and older brother.

    We were talking about waiting a year so I can finish high school, and then either taking him out of Florida with me when I go out of state for college, or having him come to wherever I am separately. I would not be staying in a college dorm or on campus. But I really really don't want him to get in any trouble with the law. I'm scared if he gets sent back home, he'd get in more trouble with his parents, and I think he would be in danger of hurting himself.

    I have a few questions, the most important one being if he turns 18 after running away, would authorities still be looking for him and/or return him home if he ran away as a minor?

    If I turn 18 while he's staying with me, does that mean I'm a legal adult and can be responsible for harboring a runaway? Could I be held responsible at 17?

    What kind of legal documents would one need when running away? If he can't get them when he leaves, what would you need to get them back?

    He would most likely be considered a truant. Can he be arrested for not going to school? We would most likely have to wait until he's 18 to get a GED, so what can we do until then?

    If he wanted to re-enroll in school, open a bank account, or apply for a job, even with all the legal paperwork necessary, could his name flag him down as a runaway in the legal system?

    Thanks for the help, he's very important to me and I just want to get him out before it gets too bad for me to do anything.

  • #2
    Hi there,

    Thank you for taking the time to write us here at NRS and we appreciate you sharing your friend's situation with us. It sounds like you are very worried for your friend's safety and they feel like it might be best for them to leave home. Home is supposed to be somewhere you can feel safe and your friend deserves to experience acceptance. He is very lucky to have such a supportive friend in his life.

    It sounds like you are wanting to know more about runaway laws. While we are not legal experts, we can speak generally on what might happen in your friend's situation. 18 is usually the age at which an individual is able to leave home without permission. If your friend leaves home as a minor, his parents do have the option to report him as a runaway to the police. Running away is not illegal, but is a status offense. This means that while your friend would not get into any legal trouble, he can be returned home if found. Anyone he stays with could be at risk of being charged with harboring a runaway. Although from what we know this is not very common, you would be at risk of legal consequences for housing your friend.

    A birth certificate, state ID, and social security card would be helpful for your friend to bring or obtain since they are often necessary for proving identity, getting a job, opening a bank account, and much more. If your friend does not have immediate access to these documents, he may be able to obtain copies and replacements. This process can sometimes be challenging and lengthy. The National Network for Youth ( has a state-by-state field guide with information on how to obtain an ID.

    Truancy laws do vary by state and some states will apply legal consequences to students and their parents. A teacher or a counselor at your friend's school would know much more about the school districts policy for dropping out of school and truancy. Usually a legal guardian is required in order to enroll in school, but sometimes exceptions can be made. The McKinney Vento Act protects a youth's right to an education and schools are generally required to have a McKinney Vento Liaison. The Liaison can provide more information and support to your friend regarding school issues and enrolling in school without a legal guardian. You can go the National Center for Homeless Education website to find your friend's local advocate.

    When parents report their child as a runaway, the report is entered into a nationwide police database. This means your friend's name would be flagged should he come into contact with law enforcement (ie. pulled over for a traffic violation while driving). From what we know, your friend can still apply for jobs, but we can't say with 100% confidence exactly what steps the police might take to return him home. Generally speaking, police do not actively search for a runaway, however, they will follow-up on information provided by his parents. Runaway reports can often depend on the parents and how much effort they put into having their child returned home. Additionally, your friend will likely find that he will not be able to rent an apartment or open a bank account until he turns 18 and is considered a legal adult.

    We hope this information is useful as you and your friend decide on your next steps. If you have any additional questions and would like to talk more, we are available for immediate support by phone at 1-800-RUNAWAY and through live chat at

    Take care

    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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