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Runaway Laws in Texas
The Texas Youth Helpline can help you understand runaway laws in Texas.
There are many different legal issues having to do with running away in Texas. If you are in crisis and are either thinking of running away or you are worried a child or teen you know is thinking about it, trained staff and volunteers at the Texas Youth Helpline can talk you through it.
We understand the laws related to running away and can explain them to you and refer you to local services that can give you even more specialized information. We can also talk to you about any issues you are dealing with and guide you to resources that may help you.
Is it illegal to run away from home?
It is against the law in Texas for a child to run away from home. It is considered a status offense, not a criminal offense, meaning it would not be an offense if committed by an adult. The Juvenile Delinquency and Prevention Act protects status offenders from being placed in “secured facilities” like a jail.
At what age can teens legally leave home in Texas?
In Texas, parents are legally responsible for their children up until age 18. However, only youth age 16 and under can be charged with status offenses, meaning a 17-year-old would not be considered a “runaway” and would instead be reported as “a missing person.” In most cases, local law enforcement will determine if a 17-year-old can be forced to return home.
Also, youth under the age of 16 can legally leave home if they become an emancipated minor, meaning their parents no longer have the legal responsibility to take care of them.
How does a teen get emancipated from a parent?
It is not easy for a teen to be legally emancipated and it varies on a case-by-case basis. The most common way to become emancipated is to petition a court. Youth must show they can take care of themselves financially, can make their own decisions, and can prove that being emancipated from their parents is in their best interests. Typically, you need to be 16 or 17 years old to become emancipated from a parent in Texas. To learn more, please contact us here at the Texas Youth Helpline directly.
Can I take in my child’s friend who has run away?
Harboring a minor without the consent of a legal guardian is considered a Class A misdemeanor in Texas and is punishable by “a fine not to exceed $4,000, and/or confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year.” Parents and guardians can choose to press charges against anyone who harbors their child without permission. If you have more questions or think you know a child who is at risk, please contact us at the Texas Youth Helpline.