Monday, October 26, 2009

Childhood Lost


It is a difficult time to be an adolescent. Not that it has ever been easy. Misunderstood, and often irritating, they can be difficult to be around. The main developmental goal is social, and that doesn't mean their family, who are often first in line for their angst. They can often be easy targets for familial scapegoating, as they make it easy with bad attitudes, laziness, and self preoccupation.

But underneath all that bravado is a child trying desperately to evolve, to become an adult, to be free from the dependence that has been all they've known. Some of these kids come from dysfunctional environments. Homes with anger, hate, substance abuse, and violence. And never more than now.

There is a group that is literally falling through the cracks. Children on the streets as young as twelve years old. Too young to get a job, or even rent a hotel room, they live in packs if they're lucky, sleeping in public bathrooms or foreclosed homes, living next to freeways, or river banks. As our economy struggles, no one struggles more than families on the edge. Armed with very little resources, they are the first to go under. We are seeing a surge in runaways unprecedented in this country. Families that are either throwing their children out on the streets because they can no longer afford them, or not calling the police to file missing persons reports when they run away. It is a serious problem, and growing.

It is estimated 1.6 million kids are kicked out of their homes or are runaways in any one year. Most return within a week, but many are not even entered into the database for missing and exploited children by law officials. Excuses abound. Outdated software, not enough man hours, etc., etc. But the bottom line? We will pay for these kids one way or the other. Either we will help them while they are young and on the streets, or we will pay for them when they enter the criminal justice system. But pay we will.

Am I writing about this because I want to give you one more thing to worry about? One more downer in a world full of them? No. I am bringing this to your attention because you are an intelligent, kind, resourceful group of people. You write blogs, work jobs, have an effect on your world, even if you don't think so. I just want you to remember these children, not to forget they are out there. Talk about them, bring them to the attention of your friends and family. Just please don't forget them. Realize that the 1.5 billion dollars allocated for fighting homelessness is targeted toward families, and not these children out there alone. Help out, or give a few dollars to your local teen outreach. Mentor. Give generously to your local food bank, because these kids are often first in line, knowing exactly when the shelves are restocked.

Just another sign of the times.

49 comments:

willow said...

Excellent post, Nancy, thanks for the reminder.

Ruth said...

I assume the figures are for the U.S. Imagine this for the rest of the world, where it has been going on a long time. We do need to help out in our own communities, and mentoring even one young person is a worthwhile thing to do.

I just took my niece in for 5 days while she detoxed from alcohol. I can't save her, but I can help her toward the next step, and hopefully that will make it harder for her to step backwards and closer to the streets.

Brian Miller said...

i will be helping one move out on wednesday...last week i took him to shelters and kitchens to educate him if his plan does not work out...scary...

whalechaser said...

When I moved to Arkansas a few years ago I discovered a non-profit named Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches. www.youthranches.com They quickly became my favorite charity. They take in children who can no longer be properly cared for by their families...they are not delinquents nor young outlaws; they are people in need of love and nurturing. They get it there. I am writing a check next.

Leah J. Utas said...

It's a sad statement. What does turning our backs on the least among us say about our society?

Gaston Studio said...

Powerful post Nancy, powerful.

I think a lot of good people "out there" just don't want to know because when they do, it makes them responsible. One of the first things we can do is report neglect and abuse of any kind when we see it. Become involved and become aware.

Herrad said...

Hoi Nancy,
Excellent post thanks for posting this.
Love,
Herrad

~JarieLyn~ said...

Very compelling,, Nancy. It only takes a little to help a lot.

Thanks for posting and creating awareness.

DJan said...

We have a mission here in Bellingham. I will make a donation in your name. Thanks for reminding me to take care of the children by caring.

Jeff D'Antonio said...

I do some volunteer work with troubled teens, and many of the ones I see are runaways. And you're right Nancy, we all pay for this one way or another. All the kids I see there are addicted to drugs, and most of them have a criminal background, all under the age of 18.

Not long ago, we had a 13 year old girl come into the help center after her parents threw her out of their home. When she came to us, she had been living on the street for six months, working as a prostitute, and was addicted to crack cocaine. And she was pregnant. 13 years old. She lost her baby, and tried several times to commit suicide before we got her into drug rehab. I can't tell you how sad it is to see that up close, to see such a young life thrown away like that. And I could tell you stories of countless others.

There are so many organizations that can help, but there aren't enough volunteers. Every city has a youth help center; there's Big Brothers/Big Sisters; there are teen outreach organizations everywhere that can get these kids off the streets and into foster care, but they don't have the resources to save all of them. If everyone would just go to one of these centers and volunteer for a day, and see these kids up close, and see the emptiness and hopelessness in their eyes - I don't think it's humanly possibly to see that and then look the other way.

Until you've seen it first hand, it's easy to pretend it doesn't exist, or to make excuses ('I can't afford to donate money', 'I don't have the time or the energy or the skills to help', etc etc), and call it someone else's problem. But I would challenge anyone to make a visit to one of these help centers and then try to erase the images of what you'll see there from your mind. You can't look the other way once you've seen their eyes. You just can't.

Thank you, Nancy, for writing about this. As you can probably tell, it's an issue that is near and dear to my heart.

Sylvia said...

I'm absolutely sorry for that. You've raised a very important matter.

Mental P Mama said...

This is heartbreaking. I had no idea about that huge number. Thanks for posting this....

Lori ann said...

This hurts my heart, you don't know how much I want to go gather each one up and bring them home with me.
In my life I've had 3 different "adopted" children, kids that had no where else to go. Today they are productive adults, they'll always be part of our family. I'll look into some of your suggestions Nancy. Thank you.

Meeko Fabulous said...

Thanks Nancy for a thought provoking post as usual. More often than not, we are so preoccupied with all the goings-on in our own little worlds that we don't stop, step back, and look at the big picture to realize that someone's problems are bigger than our own. A small donation each month wouldn't hurt at all. It probably would have gone towards something frivolous anyway.

ellen abbott said...

It's heartbreaking really when so many have too much while so many have nothing, not even the love of their families.

lakeviewer said...

Nancy, this is a powerful reminder and an exhortation to get involved. We need outreach, safe heavens, collaboration of agencies, speaking out at community forums, Well said. Thank you.

Alicia @ boylerpf said...

The old saying that the times they are a changing should encompass this endemic situation. Alas, it has not and more and more kids turn to the streets. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront. It needs to be said AND addressed! We all can help in one way or antoher.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Such a vital reminder - especially for those of us living in big cities, in colder areas. I am always upset when I go into the city and see so many young struggling on the streets. We must support and volunteer at shelters and 'soup' kitchens. These are our children.

Thanks Nancy.

Marguerite said...

We are so fortunate, here in our city, to have several good programs for youth who are in trouble, to turn to. It is so important for all of us to help these kids in any way that we can. Thanks for the reminder and for raising the awareness of this huge problem.

Hilary said...

That's a startling number. Thanks for posting this.

JeannetteLS said...

Thank you for this. We have such a tendency to blame the homeless for being so. We do not tend to think that we could be a couple of paychecks or a few months from losing our own homes, from being out there ourselves. And the children... no. we should not forget the runaways. It's obsene that this is an issue in our country at all, this degree of homelessness, of runaway children with no real options. Thank you. they should be remembered.

Whitney Lee said...

Thank you for the reminder that in the darkest situation there is a way in which we can be helpful. Thank you for ending your post with a way to help instead of simply stating the statistics. We all need reminders.

GYPSYWOMAN said...

sad but so very true - my daughter is a child advocate attorney here so i see/hear/know ALL the worst of the worst of children left dangling in life through no fault of their own - and so few resources for them and those that are there are most often overloaded underfunded and unable to help but a few - thanks for bringing these children to the forefront where they deserve to be!

The Good Cook said...

As usual Nancy you have posted a thought provoking subject.
Tragic and sad.
If we truly believe that our youth is our future each and everyone of us will get involved with this issue. Be it by prayer, donation of money or volunteering our time and talents.

Thanks for the reminder that there is much work to be done!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Great post. & the real tragedy is that it's happening here. In third world countries, this is common - and no less tragic - but to see it on the streets of the U.S. is a sign of everything that has gone south the last several years.

susan said...

You're right about this issue being important. As I'm sure Jeff D would agree it's best to provide assistance through donating to agencies - time and money both.

Bogey said...

It tears me apart to think that things at home got so bad that that was their only alternative. I ran away from "home" when I was sixteen and never looked back. I was fortunate though. A friends mother, at the time, helped me get a room with her sister and brother in law. That helped me to stay in school and to work to pay my own way. Sometimes that is the kind of break these kids are looking for. Great post Nancy! A very good eye opener especially at this time of the year.

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

As a child advocate I can feel the heart in your words and in your reaching plea. Thank you for caring.

TheChicGeek said...

Thank you, Nancy, for drawing attention to this very important issue. It really is about the children. If we can save them, we save our future. I have in the past donated a great deal of time to various youth organizations but in the last few years have focused in other areas. This is a good reminder and it gives me inspiration to go out and do some more good works!

Thank you, Nancy :)
Hugs to You!
Kelly

Kathy's Klothesline said...

There are many issues to deal with in these hard times, but the thought that children as young as 12 out there, on their own is heart wrenching. We should all work towards a remedy in any way that we can. Thanks for the eye-opener.

gaelikaa said...

Thanks for using your voice to spread awareness. Thanks for raising my awareness. And keep your good example in mind. Well done Nancy.

Maggie May said...

Always worrying when young adolescents go missing.
Thank you for bringing this topic to our attention.

I have come over from Hilary ( The Smitten Image) where you were the winner in POTW! Congratulations!

Nuts in May

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

Congratulations on very poignant and thought provoking post....I agree with fabuluso that it makes all our moans and groans irrelevant and a teensy bit self indulgent.

a sobering reminder of children without the basic family foundations, the support networks we all take for perhaps for granted

Moannie said...

Congratulations on winning Post of the Week and thank you to Hilary for finding you for us. This is a heart-rending and thought provoking post. We all know this is happening and somehow seems more dreadful when the figures are counted in our so-called civilized world.

Reya Mellicker said...

Beautiful post, thank you for the consciousness raising!

Gaston Studio said...

Congrats on POTW Nancy, this post so deserved it.

Lily Robinson said...

I ran away twice when I was a teen. It is a hard world out there. Thanks for bringing attention to this group. It is a desperate feeling that drives a child from home. It is simply love that brings them back from the cold.

Dianne said...

I left home very young and even now, all these many many years later I wonder how life would have been had I had a supportive family

and I'm very lucky, my life turned out better than OK

it is so hard to get assistance until it is too late
the system needs so much reform

thank you for all this information

I came here from Hilary's

Eddie Bluelights said...

Am here from Hilary's POTW and glad I came. Wonderful post Nancy and thank you for it. Congratulations POTW Nancy, this post so deserved it.
As you may know I have taken over The Sunday Roast interview from David McMahon of Authorblog and I would be honoured if you would agree to participate. Please email me on thesundayroasting@googlemail.com

Hope you agree - if so I'll send a list of things required - Best wishes ~ Eddie

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Nancy, this is a beautiful, passionately persuasive and moving post! You are changing our world with your generous heart and words...each and every blog post! You inspire me, my dear friend!! Love to you! ~Janine XO

P.S. Congrats on the shout out!! You deserve it!!! Love~J.

Pat said...

Nancy, this is such a powerful and moving post. It's true that this is a throw away society - you just hate to see it be the kids! Thanks for the gentle reminder.

Sande said...

Aren't we the same kids? The difference being, we have learnt the cultural dance...!

Some are so emotional or physically wrung, they can't keep in step anymore. Nothing stops the conveyerbelt of life and the week just drop of the end if there is no one to help them even if just for a season.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Nancy:)

You have very poignantly pointed out one of the worst maladies of the modern day and how uncaring are people in general. If this is the situation in your country you can imagine the magnitude of the problem in a country like India with the second highest population in the world.

Amazing post and an eye opener.

Have a wonderful day Nancy:)
Joseph

ds said...

I came here from Hilary's and am so glad that I did. This post is an eye-opener. You are right to spread the word, and I thank you for also offering concrete ways to help. Well said!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Hi, I came over from Hilary's blog. I'm so glad I did. The timing with this post is very neat -- this week I spent a day at the local food bank. I talked to amazing people who give more than they have to give - so they can make a difference in the lives of others. It was an unbelievable experience. Thank you for this important and powerful post. Together we can make a difference. Congrats on the POTW Award!!

Hit 40 said...

Very interesting article. There are so many social dynamics that play into the homeless problem....

First pot and alcohol are drugs. They are addictive and ruin lives. Drug addiction is horrible. Only about 10% of people are able to overcome an addiction in rehab. A person is best to just not try the stuff. Just stay the freak away.

Families are not intact like 30 years ago. Divorce/single mothers are becoming the majority. I wonder how many of these kids were kicked out by overwhelmed single moms and how many were by the original 2 parents that are still married? Being a single mother is a very tough job.

Free quality daycare would go a long way to starting the youth off to a great start in life.

A longer school day with more time to socialize and to exercise for the kids with the library open for the kids to study or to get homework help.

Hit 40 said...

...oh and this all costs money, but not as much as prison costs!!!

Nancy said...

Wonderful comments, all of you! Also some great ideas to help make things a bit easier for these children. After school programs, quality and free daycare, etc. Thank you!!

Phoebe Miriah Kirby said...

That is just one of the sad realities of the world that we live in...