What is the National Runaway Safeline (NRS)?

National Runaway Safeline (NRS), formerly known as the National Runaway Switchboard, is the federally-designated national communication system for runaway and homeless youth. Youth and family members connect to the 1-800-RUNAWAY hotline or 1800RUNAWAY.org online crisis services to work through problems and find local help from social service agencies and organizations. Some individuals just need someone to talk to, others need help finding a shelter, food, medical assistance, or counseling. Some youth are on the streets. Others are struggling with issues at home. And NRS is here to listen, here to help 24/7/365.

What is the mission of NRS?

The National Runaway Safeline’s mission is to keep America’s runaway, homeless and at-risk youth safe and off the streets.

Who makes up NRS?

We have 24 paid staff members, 18 Board of Directors, and more than 120 volunteers.

Who uses NRS?

Youth who are on the streets as runaways, throwaways, or homeless; youth who are thinking about running away or are in crisis; parents whose child has run from home; parents who are struggling with their child; and concerned adults who work with children, such as teachers, law enforcement personnel, agency staff, and siblings and other relatives.

What services does NRS provide?

Crisis Intervention: NRS operates a confidential 1-800-RUNAWAY hotline and 1800RUNAWAY.org online crisis service (live chat, emails, forum) 24/7/365. Texting is now also another option for kids in crisis to connect at 66008. Our frontline team of staff and volunteers receive 40 hours of training to provide non-judgmental, non-sectarian and non-directive support, empowering callers to develop a plan of action to improve their situation.

Information & Referrals: A database of about 10,000 youth and family resources provides countless options for callers to access a myriad of services, such as counseling, shelter services, alcohol/drug treatment and child protective services.

Conference Calls: When youth request assistance contacting their family or an agency that can help, NRS facilitates a conference call. The frontline team member remains on the line with the youth, advocating, as needed, on their behalf.

Message Service: NRS maintains a message service for youth who want to relay a message but are not ready to communicate directly with their parent. NRS’ message service is a less intimidating means for a youth to reestablish contact with their parent/guardian and often serves as the first step toward reunification. In addition, a parent may access the service to leave a message for his/her child.

Home Free: In partnership with Greyhound Lines, Inc., NRS helps reunite runaway youth with their families, or alternate living arrangement through a free bus ticket home. More than 15,000 youth have been reunited with families through the Home Free Program since 1995.

Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum: NRS has created a free 14-module, interactive instructional tool, available in English and Spanish. The evidence-based prevention curriculum is intended to build life skills; increase knowledge about runaway resources and prevention; educate about alternatives to running away; and encourage youth to access and seek help from trusted community members.

Prevention and Educational Materials:  NRS provides educational and promotional materials free of charge to individuals, schools and organizations to distribute within their community. All prevention and education materials are available to order or download.

Online Resources:  Our website, 1800RUNAWAY.org, has four main goals: to provide online crisis intervention with one-on-one chats, emails or forum postings, to direct calls to the hotline so that youth and families can receive verbal, individualized attention and support; to engage youth and families so they can access critical information before a runaway episode occurs; and to disseminate information about NRS, youth and runaways to the community.

Does NRS find kids?

No. Our main concern is the privacy and safety of youth seeking service. If parents call asking for help in finding their kids, NRS refers them to local police departments and national organizations such as National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for additional support.

How many kids run away each year?

In 2002, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention estimated that 1.6 million youth run away in a year in the United States. The Research Triangle Institute studied runaway youth in 1995 and estimated that 2.8 million youth in the United States had a runaway experience during the previous year. Learn more statistics on runaway youth.

What kind of statistics does NRS gather?

Although our services are confidential, NRS asks callers for age, gender, status at the time of call, means of survival, time on the street, whereabouts of youth, and how the caller heard about us. NRS is committed to protecting the personal privacy and confidentiality of all individuals who contact the agency for services, and contacting NRS for services constitutes an agreement and understanding of its privacy policy.  NRS secures the confidential and private information of service recipients, and the organization to the maximum extent feasible. NRS may collect demographic and geo-locational information in order to conduct its operations. Any information that is retained is core to the delivery and evaluation of services provided to persons contacting the agency for services. In addition to providing and maintaining services, NRS may use aggregate information collected from individuals contacting the agency to analyze trends, produce reports regarding such trends, or publish outcome reports.  Confidential or private information is strictly controlled, shared within NRS and is generally prohibited from being released to the public unless it is required by law or permitted to be released in order to protect and/or further the interests of NRS.

Is there a typical runaway?

No. Kids from every socio-economic area run away from home. Most youth connecting to NRS are girls and the average age of a caller is 16.

Why do kids run away?

NRS’ statistics show us that the majority (48%) of callers identify family dynamics (divorce, remarriage, step/blended families, problems with family rules, discipline, or problems with siblings) and abuse as the reason for their call. Often kids run away from home to remove themselves from an immediately painful situation, but with no plans for what to do next.

How can I help NRS?

You can help in many ways. Volunteer your time, make a financial contribution, distribute educational and promotional materials in schools and in your community.

Where is NRS located? Is Chicago your only office?

The 1-800-RUNAWAY hotline and 1800RUNAWAY.org crisis center and administrative office are located in Chicago (the only location). Since the database is so comprehensive, NRS is able to provide community-based referrals.

Are your services only available for runaway, homeless and throwaway youth?

No. A youth who runs away has a tremendous impact on the community – family, school, friends. While NRS provides referrals to shelter, food, and medical/legal assistance for runaway and homeless youth, prevention is a priority. Being available to a youth who needs someone to talk to may change his/her initial plan to leave home. Developing a plan of action with a frustrated parent can change the dynamics of a family issue. NRS’ services are also available for siblings who are caught in the middle of, or feeling neglected because of what’s going on at home. Teachers, agency personnel, law enforcement officers — anyone concerned about the well being of a youth — are encouraged to connect to the 1-800-RUNAWAY hotline, live chat, email or post on the forum.

Where does NRS get its money?

NRS receive funding from the government, foundations, corporations, and individuals. NRS also receives many in-kind donations from businesses.

How are volunteers trained?

Before taking a first call, each frontline team member must complete a 40-hour training program including classroom and experiential training.

Who do I talk to for additional information?

See our list of staff for the appropriate person to contact. If you’re not sure who to speak with, please call our general number at (773) 880-9860.