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5. Missing Families for whom there are Concerns for Children or Unborn Children

For amendments and updates, see the Amendments & Archives.

5.1 Recognition and Referral

Caption: Recognition and Referral


Professionals in local agencies should be alert to the possibility that an expectant mother / family missing appointments or repeatedly being unavailable for home visits may indicate that a child or unborn child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. This could be physical, sexual or emotional abuse, and / or neglect. See Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect Procedure.

Significant harm is defined in Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect Procedure, Concept of significant harm as a situation where a child is likely to suffer a degree of physical harm which is such that it requires a compulsory intervention by child protection agencies into the life of the child and their family.


Professionals should take reasonable steps to reassure themselves as soon as possible that an expectant mother / family is not missing, whereabouts unknown.


Professionals should involve all the agencies with current or recent contact with the expectant mother / family to assess the child/ren's or unborn child's vulnerability. Professionals should consider questions such as:

  • Is the mother a child herself, Is she subject to a child protection plan and/or is she a looked after child;
  • Is there good reason to believe that the expectant mother / family may be the victim of a crime?
  • Has there been a pre-birth conference for the child and is the unborn child subject to a pre-birth child protection assessment?
  • Are any of the children the subject of child protection plans?
  • Is the family currently subject to a s47 enquiry?
  • Is the mother a child herself, or is she looked after by the local authority?
  • Is there a person present in the household or visiting the mother with previous convictions for an offence against children, or other person who poses a risk of harm to children?
  • Is it clear that the expectant mother / family is missing, whereabouts unknown?


If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, or an agency reaches the judgement that a child or unborn child is at risk of significant harm on the basis of the assessment, a referral should be made to LA children's social care, the mother / family's social worker or duty officer (in line with Referral and Assessment Procedure), the police Child Abuse Investigation Team and, in the case of missing person's whose whereabouts are unknown, the police Missing Person's Unit.


If the expectant mother is a child, then Children Missing from Care, Home and Education Procedure should be followed.


The assessment may have been very brief because the degree of concern for the child/ren or unborn child may have triggered an immediate referral to LA children's social care and the police.

5.2 Immediate Action

Caption: Immediate Action


The LA child protection adviser must be informed if a child subject of a child protection plan or an unborn child subject of a pre-birth child protection plan goes missing.


LA children's social care, the police Child Abuse Investigation Team and police Missing Person's Unit should exchange information and work together.


LA children's social care must complete the assessment of risk to the child / unborn child, and of their needs. The assessment will require LA children's social care to engage with all the agencies that have current or recent involvement with the child or expectant mother / family. Existing records in these agencies must be checked to obtain any information which may help to trace the mother / family (e.g. details of friends and relatives), and this information should be passed to the police officer undertaking enquiries to trace the mother.


LA children's social care should consider whether to notify members of the missing expectant mother / family's extended family, and if so how.

5.3 Strategy Meeting / Discussion

Caption: Strategy Meeting / Discussion


If, following the above procedures, the expectant mother / family has not been traced, a strategy meeting / discussion should be convened within five working days. See Child Protection Enquiries Procedure.


The strategy meeting / discussion should consider whether the details of the expectant mother / family should be circulated to other local authorities. If so, then the LA child protection adviser should notify other LA children's social care services and Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships. London local authorities should be notified electronically to the missing persons' mailbox in each London LA children's social care service. The strategy meeting / discussion should also consider whether other agencies could be notified (e.g. designated nurses in PCTs can be notified in writing, and they may circulate details to neighbouring maternity units and health visiting teams).

5.4 When the Expectant Mother / Family is found

Caption: When the Expectant Mother / Family is found


When an expectant mother / family is found the police must be informed so that  they can cancel the missing person report.


When an expectant mother / family is found, there should, if practicable, be a strategy meeting / discussion between previously involved agencies within one working day, to consider:

  • Immediate safety issues;
  • Whether to instigate a s47 enquiry and any police investigation;
  • Who will interview the expectant mother / family;
  • Who needs to be informed of the expectant mother / family being found (locally and nationally).

Trix procedures

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