Security guards have been hired for Child Youth and Family homes in Dunedin following a spike in the number of runaways.
Information received under the Official Information Act showed police received 38 missing persons reports from two CYF family homes in Dunedin between May 1 and August 10.
CYF says the spike was unusual, but reflected the challenging behaviour of the teenagers staying in the homes at the time.
Dunedin-Clutha police area commander Inspector Dave Campbell said while not every report required a search party response, all required a good deal of paper and follow-up work, which was "highly time consuming".
In several cases, a security guard was brought in at night. A dedicated resource worker was also brought in to supervise the teenagers and work with them on specific activities during the day. In one case, a youth was moved to a secure care and protection residence.
It was not uncommon to have the same person generate multiple missing persons reports. Nine of the 29 reports during the period from a Middleton Rd home were for one person, and five were for a group of three children.
The family homes - a care and protection home at Middleton Rd and a youth justice home in Will St - are each run by two approved caregivers who can be looking after up to eight teenage residents who are in the custody of CYF.
Inspector Campbell said the homes were run like family homes, not prisons.
"There are some issues about whether you can just lock people up."
CYF acting regional manager Judy Larking said the teenagers at these homes were some of the most challenging young people that CYF dealt with.
Many of them had endured difficult or unpleasant experiences and often had troubled family backgrounds and complex needs.
Being placed in a family home could be unsettling and some young people missed family and/or their friends. Others disliked the "rules" of the home, or other residents in the home.
Family home caregivers were given training to deal with the issues that came with young people in the homes, including absconding, she said.
"But they aren't prison guards. Our aim is, where possible, to create a 'normal' home-like environment so they can experience a 'normal' teenage life. Simply locking them up in a residence at the first hint of trouble won't help these young people achieve this."
- OTAGO DAILY TIMES