Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Skip Navigation LinksProcedure

6.12 Absent Without Permission (Absconding)

Last Modified: 22-Jun-2022 Review Date: 01-Jun-2019

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation


​​To provide information about procedures residential care workers must follow when a child is absent from the home without permission (absconded).  Absconding can often be a pain-based behaviour requiring planning with the child's District and other stakeholders regarding prevention and shared management when absconding occurs.

Practice Requirements

  • ​​​​Residential Care Workers must provide the highest level of supervision at all times to children who reside in residential care. 
  • If a child leaves the home (or an outing) residential care workers must try to accompany the child for as long as practicable to persuade them to return, or to determine the child’s intended destination. 
  • If a child leaves the home without permission, cannot be located or fails to return to the home by a set time, an absconder report must be completed immediately (if high risk) or within 30 minutes.    It is essential that accurate details about the child, situation and risk are included in the Absconder Report to guide the decision-making of WA Police and other stakeholders.   Staff should consider both relevant history and current risk factors for the child when compiling details of the report.   
  • Residential care workers must read and be familiar with the MOU CPFS and WAPOL Processes When a Child in the CEO’s Care Absconds from a Department Managed Residential Care Facility or Secure Care. The MOU provides information about specific procedures and staff responsibilities (pages 5 and 6), and a flowchart (page 11). ​


  • Where a child leaves a Residential Group home or outing without permission
  • High risk absconders
  • Returning to the residential care home
  • Where a child leaves a Residential Group home or outing without permission

    ​​If attempts to persuade the child to remain at the home or with the group are not successful residential care workers should: 


    ​1. Accompany the child and try to persuade them to return. 



    2. Failing this, try to discover their intended destination (this also applies when a child is on a supervised activity and leaves without permission) and engage in safety planning.



    3. When the child has left and you cannot locate them, complete a final search, and call the child on their phone. 



    4. Record the child’s absence in the LogBook – include the time the absence was noted, circumstances, actions taken, description of clothing worn, people notified, any followup required. Document possible options for the child’s whereabouts. 



    5. Complete a risk assessment. If deemed high risk, report as an absconder and follow up with phone call to the Police (see high Risk Absconders as per the MOU).   



    6. After 30 minutes has lapsed and it is clear that the child has absconded, residential care workers must complete: 



    ​​An At Risk Person Assessment CPFS Absconder Report (Absconder Report) including information that informs the risk assessment eg if the child has recently been hospitalised for suicidal ideation, is deemed a high risk to others in the community, is young aged 12 or under, is on curfew conditions, or has a history of sexual offending or problematic behaviour (see high risk absconder section below).


    7. Attach the Absconder Report – PDF document to an email and send it to: copying in the child’s case manager, the case manager’s care team Distribution List (DL) and the home’s email DL.  Request the child’s care team provide any additional relevant information for inclusion in the absconder report to WAPOL.   

    8. If outside of business hours, phone and update Crisis Care. 

    9. Where the child has been classified as low risk, after 12 hours phone the Police District Incident Management Unit to inform them of the child’s continuing absence. 

    10.  Residential care workers must make all reasonable efforts to locate a child including but not limited to: 

    • attempt to contact child by phone or text each shift the child is absconded.  If contact is made, encourage the child to engage in safety planning and keep communication open with the house, with a view to returning.   

    High risk absconders

    ​​In circumstances of high risk to the child, in addition to the steps above, residential care workers must lodge a missing person’s report with WA Police and follow up by calling WA Police on 131 444 (Country Homes call 08 9351 0699)  immediately to report the child missing. 

    High risk factors include where the child: 

    • is young (i.e. aged 12-years or younger) or otherwise particularly vulnerable (e.g. intellectually or developmentally vulnerable);
    • ​may be, or is, suicidal or has a history of recent suicidal  ideation or self-harming behaviour; 
    • is highly distressed and/or has mental health issues; 
    • may be affected by alcohol and/or other drugs; 
    • is sick, injured or reliant on medication; 
    • has stated intent to harm others; 
    • has a recent history of serious offending or stated the intent to commit a crime; 
    • is known to be in the company of someone of concern – for example, the person has a history of serious offending or inappropriate relationship with the child; 
    • is young or otherwise particularly vulnerable; 
    • is known to be in a situation where imminent harm may be possible (i.e. getting into a unapproved vehicle);

    The WA Police officer on the phone will check that the report has been received and confirm this with the Residential Care Worker. 

    An automatically generated confirmation email including an Incident Report Number (IR number) will be emailed to the residential care home once the report has been processed.

    Whilst a child considered high risk remains absconded, residential care staff must continue to actively attempt to identify the child's whereabouts (e.g. contacting person's on the child's contact list and safety network, other children in the house, approved social media etc). 

    If contact is made, record the location in the log-book, case notes, update the absconder report email and follow up with a phone call to WAPOL to confirm the information has been received. 

    Staff are to encourage the child to engage in safety planning and keep communication open with the house, with a view to returning.   


    Returning to the residential care home


    1.     Residential Care Workers must make all reasonable efforts to return a child safely to the Residential Care Home.  Where specific plans have been made with relevant Districts for returning children who are frequent absconders, consult and follow these plans.

    2.     Reasonable efforts should include staff collecting the child a safe location (e.g. approved or public and well-lit) when the child is a reasonable distance from the residential care home provided staff safety and capacity conditions are met.  Use of a taxi may be considered as part of decision-making.

    3.     Determine whether the child has suffered any injury or harm and take any immediate action to address the child's needs. Residential care workers should attempt to make the child feel safe and secure and discuss any safety issues.

    4. Record the time of the child's return to the Residential Care Home in the Log Book with any other information about the child’s condition and whereabouts. 

    5. Notify the child’s case manager (or member of the District care team) during business hours or Crisis Care Unit and the Police District Control Centre to inform them of the child’s return immediately. Notify the Police Assistance Centre by phone on 131 444 and follow up by emailing the Missing Person / Absconder Located Form to: 

    6.  At the appropriate time staff are to carry out a Life Space Interview with the child about their absence.  This may include reviewing the child's self-care plan with them.    

    7.  Residential care workers must try to determine the trigger for the child that led absconding, review the child's safety plan and make recommendations to update if needed.  


    8.  Place all records in the child's Objective Residential Care placement file. 


Related Resources

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Policies

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Standards