The number of missing children in Taiwan is on the decline, but their average age has risen over the past 20 years, the Children’s Welfare League Foundation said at the weekend.
The foundation, which has helped locate missing children and teenagers for the past two decades, said there were 63 reported cases of children 18 and under who went missing last year, down from 157 in 2003.
However, most of those who go missing now are teenagers between 13 and 18 years old. They accounted for 76.2 percent of all children who went missing last year, compared with only 27.2 percent in 1992, according to foundation figures.
In contrast, the percentage of missing children accounted for by youngsters in the seven-to-12 age bracket over the same period fell from 22.4 percent to 9.5 percent, while the percentage of missing children accounted for by youngsters in the zero-to-six age bracket plunged from 41.5 percent to 11.1 percent, the foundation said in a statement.
The majority of missing children are now girls — a complete turnaround compared with figures 20 years ago. While girls accounted for only 36.1 percent of all missing minors in 1992, they made up 74.6 percent of the total last year. Also, the number of missing girls last year was three times that of missing boys, the foundation said.
As the average age of children who lost contact with their families has risen, running away from home has emerged as the main cause of the problem. It accounted for 75.8 percent of missing children last year, up from 27.2 percent in 1992, the foundation said.
Inappropriate parenting and a bad family environment are the leading factors in driving teenagers to run away, the foundation said, adding that building effective communication channels between parents and children could go a long way to preventing the problem. The non-profit organization began a campaign in 1992 to help families look for their missing children and teenagers.
To date, it has found 1,388 out of the 1,625 minors reported missing, the foundation said.