Community Resources

OJJDP Journal of Juvenile Justice

The 10-Question Tool: A Novel Screening Instrument for Runaway Youth

Adolescents who run away face high rates of sexual and physical assault, yet there are no established brief screening tools that police can use to determine adolescents’ safety or that help police refer such youth to needed services when they are located. We developed the 10-Question Tool for law enforcement officers to screen runaway youth about issues related to their safety. We reviewed 300 10-Question forms completed by law enforcement officers in St. Paul, Minnesota. Our analyses explored demographic characteristics of runaway youth, including their reasons for leaving home, disclosure of injury, sexual assault, and their need for health care. This novel approach to screening by law enforcement officers appears to identify, locate, and refer runaway teens needing services as a result of myriad harms, including sexual assault.

Running away is a relatively common experience, yet many youth who run away leave difficult home situations and face becoming victims of crime while on the run (Tucker, Edelen, Ol, Elickson, & Klein, 2011). Once teens leave home, caretakers may or may not report their running away to the police (Malloch & Burgess, 2011). Regardless of whether anyone files a missing persons report, runaway teens may come into contact with law enforcement. Because there is no brief standard screening tool being used by police when they locate or encounter runaway youth, police may be missing a potentially important opportunity for assessing a teen’s safety and possible victimization while away from home.