Montreal

Missing Children's Network sounds alarm over rising number of cases

Quebec's Missing Children's Network says in a year, they have seen a dramatic increase in the number of missing children, including runaways.

Executive director says organization is on pace for record-setting year

Pina Arcamone, executive director of the Missing Children's Network, says if the trend continues, the organization will be on pace for a historic year in terms of the number of missing children it's been asked to help find. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec's Missing Children's Network says in a year, they have seen a dramatic increase in the number of missing children, including runaways.

The organization says it opened a total of 77 files last year, 67 of them involving youth who were suspected of having run away.

This year, already, there have been 100 files, 71 of which are thought to be runaways. 

"We need to be asking ourselves questions," Pina Arcamone, the network's executive director, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

"Why are all these kids running away and what can be done if we can prevent them in the first place from running away, that would be half the battle, to be honest."

If the trend continues, the organization will be on pace for a historic year, she said.

"We may actually double the [number] of kids that we have ever registered in the history of our organization."

The network is not involved in every missing child case across the province.

More parents coming forward?

Arcamone said while nearly 90 per cent of runaways are found within first few days of disappearance, the others remain on the street or in unstable situations.

The spike in the numbers, she explained, could be due in part to more parents coming forward, because they're worried their child has joined street gangs or gotten entangled in human trafficking.

On average, the runaways are between 14 and 15 years old, and come from big cities such as Montreal, Laval, Longueuil and Quebec City.

The majority, 58 per cent, are girls.

Arcamone said many of the teens have issues communicating with either their parents or people at their schools.

Some also have undiagnosed mental health issues or refuse to take their medication. And while some may point to the recent spate of runaways from a Laval group home as a reason for the increase, Arcamone said as many teens are fleeing group homes as their family homes.

These days, she said, parents and children alike generally lead busy lives and don't check in with each other as much as they should. 

"We need to find moments in the day, in the week where we really sit with our children, whether we share a meal, go to the mall, get an ice cream cone together, and we chat with our children."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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