kostgard: I think she was at "Not Important to This Episode" Camp.
Except, wait a minute — don't these people have kids? Where on Earth is that newborn baby we spent half of last season waiting for? What about their Mouthy Kid who helped save the day last week? Have they been Brother Chucked?
Never fear, because they are enjoying a stay at Not Important to This Episode Camp. Don't worry, they'll be back next week.
And it isn't just camp. Maybe they've gone to visit that Disappeared Father we never hear about, or being looked after by some unnamed babysitter.
Also happens when a previously valuable young character has served their purpose and is now surplus to requirements. A swift packing-off to an unnamed (and often way beyond the character's shown means) Boarding School is an extended version of this.
And so their parent is able to throw down everything and depart in the company of our hero on that crazy road trip or whatever. Hilarity Ensues, and all without interference from Child Services.
See also Put on a Bus, where a character is written out in a way that can easily be reversed, and Shoo Out the Clowns, when the young and impressionable make a hasty exit stage right before the nasty stuff gets underway. Chuck Cunningham Syndrome is when this happens permanently without any explanation. Tangentially related to Chaste Toons, which often uses the "not really the main character's kids" justification to send the kids back to Mom and Dad when the plot demands. Compare Parental Abandonment, especially the examples where the characters have parents supposedly, but they're just never around. See also Offstage Waiting Room. If they are important to this episode, but not there, you might have a case of Absentee Actor.
- A quite literal example from The Simpsons, where Lisa refuses to take part in a reality show Homer's gotten onto as part of community service (long story), and is promptly shoved onto a bus by the director and taken to a camp before she can object further. She's not seen again for the rest of the issue, although Homer does eventually notice she's missing at the very end.
- In The Thin Man series, Nora has her baby Nicky prior to movie three. He is a baby (and thus little more than a Living Prop) throughout that movie, but by movie four he is old enough to talk and involve himself with the plot a bit. For movie five, Nick and Nora visit Nick's home town and leave Nicky at home, claiming they didn't want to take him out of school, so he doesn't appear in that film.
- Monk: Sharona frequently sent her kid off to her sister Gail, despite the fact that she was shown to hate her. Natalie has so far preferred the ubiquitous babysitter, or the Trope Namer camp.
- According to the producers of the Alien Nation TV movies, Baby Vessna was at daycare after every film since Dark Horizon (except when we saw her in a kind of cocoon).
- Dexter can't watch the kids and murder people at the same time. The stepchildren get Put on a Bus to live with their grandparents after Rita becomes incapable of taking care of them. Dexter buys the adjacent apartment for the babysitter so baby Harrison can be put away with ease without making him appear negligent.
- Happens to Ben and later Emma a lot in Friends. Justified with Ben, since Carol and Susan are his primary caregivers. However, Emma was always explained as being at somebody else's house.
- Gigi on Gilmore Girls. After she served her convenient function of breaking up Christopher and Lorelai/making Lorelai angst in seasons 2 & 3, she was always conveniently at Grandma's or whatnot. This was especially glaring in season 7 when Lorelai and Christopher moved in together, got married and still Gigi was being shuttled off to Grandma's/Paris, etc.
- This happened to just about every kid on any Star Trek series, with the exception of Wesley Crusher, and possibly Naomi Wildman. It was especially noticeable on Deep Space Nine, where Sisko could come home and find anyone but his son Jake sitting on the couch. DS9 however managed to justify it pretty well; Jake was a fairly responsible teenager and wouldn't necessarily need much adult supervision, though on one or two occasions he did get up to mischief while hanging around with Nog and caused his father a bit of grief, and the series made a point of addressing the fact that Ben's job took up a lot of his time and made it hard to raise his son single-handed. Eventually the trope stopped applying altogether when Jake turned 18 and moved into his own place.
- The trope is strangely zig-zagged on TNG in regards to Alexander. When Worf gets custody of him from his mother's death, his first instinct is to shuttle him off to live with his adoptive parents on Earth. While this seems to work for a while, it isn't long before his parents show up and explain that they're too old to keep up with a little boy, and Worf has to take care of Alexander himself. After that it's pretty much even money on if Alexander will be present in episodes related to his dad or not; half the time he's either explained to be visiting his grandparents or just conspicuously absent with no excuse.
- The episode when Alexander finally showed up on DS9 lampshaded and rather mercilessly deconstructed this trope; he had some pretty major abandonment issues and was justifiably pissed off with his dad while still trying desperately to earn his approval.
- Richie Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, once hilariously described on an older Nick At Nite promo as "Richie Petrie: low-maintenance boy".
- The Desperate Housewives kids get this a lot. If one of them is involved in a storyline with a parent, suddenly any siblings they might have are completely forgotten. Especially odd in Lynette's case, where her character is "the one with all the kids," yet we barely see most of them all season while the chosen kid gets all the storylines. This is especially bad in season five. You would think the time skip would give the now older children more opportunities to be more involved with the storylines, but oh no... And it appears in spades in season six as well - MJ, whose older sister was attacked in the season premiere, has only appeared significantly in one episode (understandable, since the character is six), and Ana, who was brought on to give Gabby a hard time, has been put aside so that Gabby can instead suffer the 'joy' of homeschooling her own daughter.
- El Chavo del ocho: The vencidad tenants went to Acapulco for a vacation. When The Landlord, Señor Barriga, learned this from El Chavo, he decided to go there as well and, taking pity from El Chavo, takes him as well. Señor Barriga's son, Ñoño, was at a boy scout camp at the moment and, aside from when his Dad mentioned this as an explanation not to take him to Acapulco, wasn't mentioned in the whole story arc.
- Arrested Development had an extended subplot about Lucille accidentally adopting a Korean boy named Annyong towards the end of the first season, and he makes it a handful of episodes into the second before he's unceremoniously sent off to boarding school and forgotten. Of course, this being Arrested Development, he turns out to be The Mole the family spends much of season three concerned about.
- On Homeland, Frannie, Carrie's child with Brody, ends up here a lot. This becomes a minor plot point as her mother has left the baby in the care of her sister, who is disappointed with the mother's neglect of the baby.
- In the Doctor Who story "Dark Water/Death in Heaven", Clara is given a child to look after. It is a temporary arrangement (she is asked to find the child's real parents) but nevertheless the child is absent with no explanation by the next story, "Last Christmas".
- Orphan Black puts Kira on the bus for pretty much all of season 3 after the previous season's central conflict revolved around her.
- This became the permanent fate of Ralph's son on The Greatest American Hero. After featuring prominently in the first couple of evisodes, he began disappearing increasingly frequently during the first season, until he and the custody battle over him vanished altogether with no explanation. We're left to assume that the mom got custody and Ralph got no visitation, which is pretty weird considering his status as a squeaky-clean school teacher.
- DuckTales (1987): In spite of living at Scrooge's mansion, Webby, Mrs. Beakley and Duckworth are absent in multiple episodes taking place mostly or partly "at home":
- Webby's inexplicably absent in "The Uncrashable Hindentanic," "The Bride Wore Stripes," and "Nothing to Fear" among others.
- Mrs. Beakley is likewise nowhere to be found in "Nothing to Fear." She's also mysteriously absent in "Armstrong," "Bubba's Big Brainstorm," "Luck o' the Ducks" and "Time Teasers" to name a few.
- Duckworth also takes off "Luck o' the Ducks", the loyal butler isn't around for the home scenes in "A Whale of a Bad Time" or to visit Scrooge in "Duckman of Aquatraz."
- Nearly all major characters from DuckTales (2017) have an episode or two where they don't even get mentioned. The only character who has appeared in all 11 episodes so far is Dewey.
- In an episode of Transformers Animated, Optimus Prime mentions that Sari and Bumblebee have gone on "an important fact-finding mission this morning. To someplace called... 'Five Banners Roller Coaster Kingdom'."
- The writers of The Venture Bros. mention multiple times on the DVD commentaries that they're constantly having to resist the temptation write out Hank and Dean. After they plot out what happens with Doctor Venture and Brock Samson, they struggle to figure out what stupid thing the boys will get up to in their sub-plot.
- Inverted in Batman Beyond when Bruce Wayne would be mentioned to be in some foreign country whenever the writers needed Terry to handle things on his own.