Editorial, by Clara Balestra, 28 September 2017

fugue valaisThe statistics on runaway children in Valais, collected in the quantitative study conducted by Frossard and Morard, are interesting because they provide an indication of the severity of the phenomenon. Both students wonder if running away is a social problem in Valais (pp. 78-83). Their answer is nuanced because running away «does not correspond to all the components of the definition of a social problem (...) but certain criteria appear significant.» (p.82)

They conclude that «it is important ... to understand it better ... and this for two main reasons. Firstly, the disappearance of a child is likely to cause serious consequences, the act of running away not being the symptom but the cause. Secondly, if we consider running away as the overt aspect of the problems experienced by the young person, this very act makes their plight visible: the child offers, knowingly or not, a clear indication of their suffering. This provides both their family and social workers with the opportunity to take action to improve the situation.» (p.82)

The data collected have to be supplemented by other data in order to understand the scope. More qualitative and quantitative research is needed before determining whether running away in Valais is a social problem.
Nevertheless, this study makes it possible to identify four possible courses of action, to better address this problem:

  • «The large number of repeat runaways prompts us to question the current quality of care at the time of the child's return, whether by either the family circle or by other concerned institutions» (p.83)
  • A weekly runaway incident is reported by families. This is probably only a fraction of the running away from home (p.83). It is legitimate to ask whether it is necessary to work with these families or to inform the public specifically about this issue, in particular with regard to return.
  • The method of informing the police of the disappearances of unaccompanied minors (MNA) differs from the methods used to inform families and raises the question of the need for change.
  • The variety of institutional arrangements for runawy incidents raises the question of whether better inter-institutional coordination would be desirable.

To integrate these courses of action and to measure their utility, the opinions of the various agents involved (police officers, educators, therapists, teachers, etc.) and interdisciplinary action are fundamental.

The half-day of reflection organized by the Sarah Oberson Foundation «Running away in Valais: An X-ray examination of the phenomenon» is part of this idea.

Fugues en Valais: radiographie du phénomène, October 18, 2017 from 2 PM to 5 PM at the Kurt Bösch University Foundation, Bramois / Sion. Free admission on registration (deadline 13 October).

Picture: mafal_dark, flickr/CC

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