Eau Claire seeing more runaways, risk of danger

EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - A rising number of runaways has police and counselors busy in Eau Claire, looking for kids and answers to keep it from happening.

Police say they've handled nearly 60 runaway cases just this month. While most of them were from the Eau Claire Academy, Lutheran Social Services said the number of kids running away from homes has spiked in the past couple weeks.

“There are times where it's just easier not to think about (the issue). I don't believe the general population understands the extent of the runaway situation,” L.S.S. program manager Ann Larsen said.

AmeriCorps Youth Outreach Specialist Pam Reinhardt talks to kids and parents in the community and in schools to tell them there are other options, and help is out there, if things aren't going well at home.

“We do mediation and mentoring with the family, to try and set down some things and make the issue resolve,” Reinhardt said.

“People do like to put blame. We're here to listen, help and understand. Not to judge a family because they're having difficulties that might lead them to take off,” Larsen said.

Reinhardt said there are warning signs, like a lack of communication that can be addressed to avoid a runaway situation.

“If (parents are) fighting a lot with the kids, the kids aren't responding, just walking out of the house, they're not letting them know where they're at,” Reinhardt said.

“We talk to them about what their needs are, and we can bring the basic needs, food, water, shelter.”

“There are people that care, there are people that can help and are willing to listen,” she said.

L.S.S. said there are several resources available to deal with, or prevent a runaway situation including their helpline at (855) LSS-RAYS, the National Runaway Switchboard at (800) RUNAWAY, the Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 4ACHILD, and the Eau Claire Department of Human Services at (715)839-2300.

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