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 Outdated software, not enough man hours, etc., etc.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.