Betty Brown spent most of the month looking for her daughter. She drove around town, put up more than 250 fliers, and knocked on doors hoping to find her 15-year-old daughter.
Brown's daughter left Feb. 1 for school and didn't come home; she ran away. The girl spent three weeks "underground," skipping from place to place in Juneau before finally returning home Thursday.
"I grew more concerned every day," Brown said.
On any given day, 10 to 15 underage children are loose in Juneau, said Lane Taylor, coordinator with the Cornerstone program. The 12-bed emergency shelter for runaways and homeless kids serves about 60 runaways and foster kids who are between placements each year.
"We get frequent flyers," Taylor said. "It comes in waves."
Kids run away for any number or combination of reasons: A disruptive home life, "extreme" family conflict, sexual, psychological, physical and emotional abuse, alcohol, drugs, crime and domestic violence, Lane said.
Brown said her daughter left because she "wanted to be with her friends more."
No law in Juneau requires a child to stay at home, or be anyplace, and there is no curfew to force teens off the streets at night.
"You can't arrest them for running away," Juneau police Sgt. Dave Campbell said.
Police will watch for the teenager and in some cases actively look for them. Brown filed a "Request to Locate" with the Juneau police, hoping they could help.
When police find a kid they can hold him or her in place and contact a parent or guardian to pick them up, Campbell said. With no crime committed, and no apparent danger, the police believed Brown's daughter was around town. They knew she contacted friends and was seen on the bus.
From his standpoint, Campbell said, kids from all levels of society run away from home. Some are running from a bad situation and others have simply "gone wild," he said. They get involved with the wrong crowd or get involved with drugs.
"The best predictor is to look at their friends," Campbell said. "They'll either prop them up or pull them down."
Six nights a week, Cornerstone has a Mobil Crises Unit on the street looking for kids. Lane said the goal is to get them in the shelter or back home or to turn themselves in to police if required. From there, layers of service are available if a child wants them. Cornerstone will give them a place to take a three-day "time out," then connect them with family therapy, mediation, drug and alcohol treatments or access to other social services.
"Runaways, throwaways and underage kids living independent lives, we work with all these kids," Taylor said.
Brown said her daughter came home because she missed her sisters and wanted to go back to school. At least two of her five daughters have run away from home in the last 18 months, and Brown said she has taken the offer of help from Cornerstone.
"The caseworker has been so involved and helped my family," Brown said.
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