Saskatoon police are taking a new approach to address the problem of runaways in the city.
Last year, police investigated 2,800 missing person cases of which many were children who ran away from home.
Recently, the police service received $2.9 million from the federal government to launch the Strengthening Families Program.
“Things such as how to deal with issues of violence … substance abuse and addictions in the house. Because if the kids don’t have a strong environment that they’re coming from, what do we expect from these kids down the road?” said Supt. Brian Shalovelo.
He said many will seek out validation such as gangs.
“What we’re trying to do with this program, is trying to give an opportunity for families to stem possible futures like this.”
Shalvelo noted the program’s target age groups are six to 11, and 11 to 17.
Three members – a co-ordinator, police constable and social service agent –will work directly with families on a volunteer basis providing a 14-week program to get to the root causes behind children who runaway.
The program has been implemented in 36 countries, and includes workshops for families on parenting and social skills.
Shalovelo said while the goal is to help families, there’s a benefit to police, which is tasked with investigating each case that can drain already tight police resources.
In the last 24 hours alone, police received five reports of missing children.
“That’s five missing kids that … we have to take resources and we have to put the resources on finding these kids, right now,” he said.
Shalovelo explained the program will start slow, adding the first year will be considered a success if they can make a difference in the lives of one or two families.
“A strong family will give you a strong neighbourhood, which will give you a strong community. That’s the way we’re trying to look at it.”