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What if my child (under 18) runs away from home?


A “runaway” is defined as a child under the age of 18 who has left home without permission and without good cause.  The child must be missing for 24 hours and his/her current whereabouts are unknown.

1.)    Notify the Police.  The parent/guardian must file a missing person’s report with
        their local police department.

        (Children 18 and over do not meet the legal definition of a runaway)

2.)    If the child is under the age of 18, has not returned for 24 hours, and you do
        not know their whereabouts, you may come to the Family Services Team on
        business days between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for referral for a Family Court
        Warrant. The Family Court Legal Division will assist parents/guardians in filing 
        a petition to obtain a judge’s signature on the warrant.  The warrant is in effect
        as soon as the Judge signs it. However, some police agencies require up to five
        days before the information will appear on their computers. Most PINS warrants
        expire after six months, but if the child is still missing, an extension may be

3.)    If your child is brought to Family Court on a warrant, he or she may be released
        administratively, without a court appearance, after a review of potential risk by
        Detention Intake. The warrant MUST be answered. The child must be brought to
        the Erie County Family Court during business hours. A determination will be
        made at that time whether or not the child may be safely returned home.

4.)    If your child is apprehended on the warrant after normal business hours, he/she
        will be placed at New Directions/Gateway-Lonview non-secure 
program located on the Gateway-Longview campus (6350 Main Street;
        Williamsville, New York 14221) until the court re-opens. You will be notified by
        the police or detention facility.

5.)    In many cases, when a child is picked up on the warrant, he/she will not be
        held in detention, but will be released to the family. The family will then be
        referred to the Family Services Team and an immediate plan of action for the
        family will be created and agreed to, based upon the specific
        circumstances/needs of the child and family.

Youth Services/Detention Office, Room 125
One Niagara Plaza
Buffalo, NY 14202