Two-thirds of runaway children are not reported missing by their parents or caretakers, a survey released Monday suggests.
The Children's Society and the University of York questioned 11,000 children between the ages of 14 and 16. More than 10 percent (1,054) had run away from home overnight. Sixty-eight percent of the runaways said their parents had not reported them missing to police.
"The number of children who aren't reported missing is alarmingly high," said Bob Reitemeier, chief executive for the Children's Society. "If police are not alerted, and children stay away from home, they will be left seeking help from adults who may harm, hurt abuse and exploit them."
Sixteen percent of the children said they had been forced to sleep outdoors or at a stranger's home, while 8 percent reported being hurt or harmed while away from home, according to the AP.
The Children's Society is calling for a national network of government-funded refuges, based on a scheme that has operated in the United States since the 1970s.
The group said there were currently only three official refuges for runaways in Britain, with just 10 beds total. The refuges are safe buildings where runaway children can stay for up to 14 days.