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Runaway Children Help Hotline

Frequently Asked Questions

What is NRS?
We are the federally-designated national communication system (hotline and website) for runaway and homeless youth. Youth and family members – parents, siblings, other relatives – call at all times to work through problems and to find local help – agencies, organizations. Some callers just need someone to talk to, others need help finding a shelter, food, medical assistance, or counseling. Some callers are on the streets, others are struggling with other issues and we work with them to identify options to prevent them from leaving their home, when possible and if appropriate.


What is the mission of NRS?
The National Runaway Switchboard's mission is to keep America's runaway and at-risk youth safe and off the streets.

Who makes up NRS?
We have the equivalent of 20 paid staff members, 20 board members, and more than 150 volunteers.

Who uses NRS?
Youth who are on the streets as runaways, throwaways, or homeless; youth who are thinking about running away or are in crisis; parents whose child has run from home; parents who are struggling with their child; and other adults concerned who work with children such as teachers, law enforcement personnel, agency staff, and siblings and other relatives.

What services does NRS provide?
Crisis Intervention
Message Relay
Conference Calling
Home Free (in partnership with Greyhound Lines, Inc.)
Website –
Information and Referral

Does NRS find kids?
No. Our main concern is the safety of our callers. If parents call asking for help in finding their kids, we can refer them to local police departments and national organizations such as National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for additional support.

How many kids run away each year?
In 2002, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention estimated that 1.6 million youth run away in a year in the United States. The Research Triangle Institute studied runaway youth in 1995 and estimated that 2.8 million youth in the United States had a runaway experience during the previous year.

What kind of statistics does NRS gather?
Although our services are anonymous and confidential we ask callers for age, gender, status at the time of call, means of survival, time on the street, whereabouts of youth, and how the caller heard about us. In addition, we identify problems and discuss options available based on the callers’ comfort level and area resources. However, callers disclose only as much information as they wish. We also collect statistics on the number of calls received from each state, and can provide regional statistics on the issue.

Is there a typical runaway?
No. Kids from every socio-economic area run away from home. Most callers to NRS are girls and the average age of a caller is 16.

Why do kids run away?
Our statistics show us that the majority (48%) of callers identify family dynamics (divorce, remarriage, step/blended families, problems with family rules, discipline, or problems with siblings) and abuse as the reason for their call. Often kids run away from home to remove themselves from an immediately painful situation, but with no plans for what to do next.

How can I help NRS?
You can help in many ways. Volunteer your time, make a financial contribution, distribute educational and promotional materials in schools and in your community.

Where is NRS located? Is Chicago your only office?
The call center and administrative office are located in Chicago (our only location). Because our database is so comprehensive, our ability to provide community-based referrals makes us seem local.

Are your services only available for runaway, homeless and throwaway youth?
No. A child who runs away has a tremendous impact on the community – family, school, friends. While we can provide referrals to shelter, food, and medical/legal assistance for runaway and homeless youth, prevention is one of our goals. Being available to a youth who needs someone to talk to may change his/her initial plan to leave home. Developing a plan of action with a frustrated parent can change the dynamics of a family issue. Our services are available for siblings who are caught in the middle of, or feeling neglected because of what’s going on at home. Teachers, agency personnel, law enforcement officers – anyone concerned about the well being of a youth – are encouraged to call.

Where does NRS get its money?
We receive funding from the government, foundations, corporations, and individuals. We also receive many in-kind donations from businesses.

How are volunteers trained?
Before taking their first call, each "liner" must complete a 36.5-hour training program including classroom and experiential training.

1800Runaway Hotline Results
From January through December 2006, NRS handled a total of 113,916 calls - - 91,968 incoming and 21,948 outgoing calls, such as to a local shelter or social service agency on a youth's behalf (16,164 calls were crisis calls that were logged and used for the 2006 report). All calls were with runaway and at- risk youth, parents, relatives and friends of runaways, social service or youth agencies, and law enforcement officers.

Ninety-four percent were youth. -- More than half (56 percent) of the youth were already on the street as a runaway or throwaway. -- Nearly half (46 percent) called because of family dynamics (divorce, remarriage, problems with siblings) and abuse (substance, physical, sexual). -- Almost three-quarters (74 percent) were between 13 and 17 years old. -- Seventy-six percent were female, 24 percent were male. -- More than half (57 percent) said they had been away from home between one and seven days before calling NRS (on the street, with a friend, at a youth shelter). "Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year," said Maureen Blaha, NRS executive director. "Collecting this call data helps us track why kids call, why they run, and issues they are facing. Plus, it helps us continue to provide impactful programs and services that keep youth safe and off the streets."

Who do I talk to for additional information?
Please call our general number at (773) 880-9860.

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