An overview of the history issues and laws on runaway children and teens Essay
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When children and teens have to deal with abuse, family, depression, or any other issues for an extensive period of time without getting the help they may run away. When a kid has these problems and they are unable to get help then why would they stick around and wait for dad to come home? The process in which our government finds and helps runaway children is not up to a standard that keeps them from falling into the streets and succumbing to sex, drugs, and violence.
Runaway children and teens who have been recorded for centuries. Whether it is due to controlling parents forcing their kids into arranged marriages or legally disowning them for various reasons. During the Great Depression Era, children of all ages would leave home looking for work or food to provide for their families or themselves. Ever since the government passed the child labor laws, children could not help provide for their families through a job. So their families either kicked them out or sent them out to find better fortune somewhere else. They would travel together, hopping from train to train, therefore they were called the Box Car Kids.
A little later around 1945 to 1963 sterilization laws were passed which allowed institutions to sterilize individuals against their will. Runaway kids would get detained and if a guardian or parent did not pick them up then they would be sterilized. The era this occurred in was called the Eugenic Era, it spawned from the thought of making a utopian society. Drug ridden, crazy, violent, scared children were not fit to reproduce.
Issues for these children usually begin at home, with abuse acting as a major component. When abuse is not noted and solved, or the child isn’t removed from the environment, then the child may feel like it is their responsibility to solve this when no one else will. No kid should have to face this, when they finally realize that they can’t deal with an abusive parent, sibling, or guardian at home then they resort to fleeing the situation. Some kids are brought up in homes that have been broken for generations, ridden with drug or alcohol abusing parents.
Throwaways are children that parents do not want and have kicked out of their homes. This makes things even more difficult when police finally bring the kid back home but the parent does not want them there. This causes mental issues to occur or grow in the child. These problems include diseases such as depression, anxiety, which could branch into self-harm, self-image issues, acting out, drug abuse, underage drinking, along with many other harmful activities. Teens may turn to drugs and or drink at sometimes a very young age to cope with the hardships they face at home, school, or with personal issues. Whether they turn to them before running away and being exposed to the streets or beforehand, there is a high likelihood of it.
The law about runaways differs from that of abductees. This matters because of the effort put into each one, for example, amber alerts, and simply the effort put into finding the child. A private investigator says, “that since the kids just ran away and do not seem to be abducted it is a lot harder to get help from the law enforcement, or get the word out by using the Amber Alert System.” (Janis, 2) An amber alert is only put out for abductees because the state knows they are in imminent danger and that they know for a fact that they do not have time to waste in finding them.
There should be an alert sent out that is almost as mainstream as an amber alert. Although they are not in the clutches of a specific person or group of people, there is an extremely high possibility of them being in the same situation soon. The NCMEC or National Center for Missing and or Exploited Children is who people are supposed to call to help find their children along with the police. The problem is that this board is not very familiar with, at least not nearly as much as the amber alert system. Another problem is that the police cannot chase these kids across state lines with no leads or jurisdiction. There are far too many missing children alerts in police headquarters for all or even half to be noticed at one time and be helped. If the child gets outside of the county to city limits past state lines, to possibly across the country that is just lessening the chance of them being found. The further away from the last place they were seen the less the state and government can or will do for them. Depending on how much effort the family puts in, the story will fade out and they could be lost for an extended period of time whether the child is attempting to be gone that long or they got hurt, legitimately lost, trapped, or killed.
Children who run away usually attempt during the summer. Due to obvious reasons such as, they are not freezing, they can sleep, can travel outside with more leisure, and stay away from home for a longer amount of time. Whereas in colder temperatures these things are not available, they usually go back home in a matter of days or weeks. Most runaways return home in 48 hours to two weeks generally, warm or cold climate. If a child has run away before he or she is likely to run away again for the same reasons; if they feel trapped or pressured again by something/ someone else as they did before.
On the other side of the spectrum, this is not what happens when the child runs away, the consequence of them coming back home, it is why they felt like they could not live at home anymore. Now sometimes a child will just leave home out of spite, adventure, petty reason or argument. These children will usually return home in a short amount of time, if not the same day. But for the children/young teens that leave home in fear of their own safety, or have gotten kicked out may feel the need to stay away for a longer period of time. A child may have to throw away their own innocence at such a young age and act on their own to take care of themselves, and in so being subjected to a very dangerous environment.
When many runaway kids flock to large cities to hide perhaps find fortune that they lacked at home. There are far too many stories of children running to cities such as Los Angeles. There are cars waiting at mega bus stops to pick up these kids and befriend them then trap them into prostitution, drug trades, or gangs; this frightens kids even more. The streets in these places are totally different at night, and in some areas, you don’t want to be walking around in any period of the day. Being alone and young they are vulnerable to mugging, rape, abduction, etc. At night they may have to stay in an abandoned building because youth shelters will be full or not allow teens under 18 to stay there. They are a liability, they are under their parent’s jurisdiction. If kids go to these shelters then social services will get involved, and they will make them go back home. If the home is not safe then they will find temporary housing until the service gets a court order. But if the child does not wish to do that they will hide out in abandoned places where other kids, or older homeless people, junkies, or gangs stay. One in three girls is solicited for drugs within the first 72 hours of hitting the streets. The longer they are out there the harder it is to leave. Drugs seem like a place to go for solace when living in the harshness of the streets. Kids and adults use drugs as a way to escape their problems, but in reality, the drugs only decrease their ability to survive and find a job if they are over eighteen. Once these kids get hooked on drugs such as heroin, cocaine, meth, it is hard to get out of the cycle of needing a fix. Another factor that is brought into the child’s life is prostitution. Being dragged into sex trafficking just brings up so many terrible things that happen with this such as disease and rape.
“But run where when there are 30,000 teenagers who have fled their homes in New York and only 400 emergency shelter beds, 13,000 runaways in New Jersey with a safe haven for only 300, and 10,000 in Connecticut with room for just 115? Even if a runaway finds a bed in a crisis center, where does he or she go after reaching the 30 days federal limit for sanctuary in an emergency shelter?” (Gross, 1) It is a sad thing that these are ordinary numbers, that these numbers for runaway children are realistic at all. There are not enough youth shelters, for kids to be able to flee to a haven when their home isn’t safe. Children need a place of solace and safety so they do not feel the need to turn to the streets and drugs.
Unfortunately, shelters have run out of space. This has occurred so drastically that some cities have had to start using hotels to house all of these kids. This is a temporary and weak plan with many holes that should not have to happen in the first place. A government should spend more money on building bigger shelters and hiring professionals to turn these children’s lives around. Instead, the state is using hotels with empty space to let children roam as they please, and spiral out of control. Really this is simply giving them an upgrade to living on the streets, it is a drug house.
“The Capri Motel is one of the places child and family services house kids in care. But listen to how one teen, a girl we are calling Katrina, describes the hotel she was placed in for several months (Barghouti, 1).” “Sometimes there would be other hotel rooms open through johns and hookers and older people, I guess to drink or party (Katrina, 1).” “That you guys saw
(Barghouti, 1).” “Yeah, a lot of the kids would go hang out with them and do drugs and party with them (Katrina, 1).”
When children do get back home or get placed into a foster care they have a lot of catching up to do with their family and lives. If therapy didn’t cost nearly as much as it does, then maybe the country could be impacted on a really widespread level. People can make a change to alter the mindset of the government to show this growing problem. One of these countries priorities is to keep people off the streets and in jobs, but with diminishing futures, for these kids, that priority is not going to be fulfilled. Treating teenagers like children but trying them as adults need to stop. Children becoming runaways or throwaways has to be prevented and the signs are seen early so that they can get help. Having someone to listen to them and see signs of abuse, and depression; This can save a child’s life from being taken by the streets.
Blanchard, Jayne. “Cast shines despite ‘Polaroid Stories”. Washington Times, The (DC). Article. 2 August. 2003.
Janis, Linzie. “REAL-LIFE ROMEO AND JULIET” Good Morning America (ABC.) 5 Sept. 2013. Article. 12 Dec 2014.
Gross, Jane. “Fleeing Abuse to the Streets; Shelters Can’t Keep Pace With Increase in Runaways.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Dec. 1997. Web. 07 Jan. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/1997/12/18/nyregion/fleeing-abuse-to-the-streets-shelters-can-t-keep-pace-with-increase-in-runaways.html?pagewanted=2>.
Moseley, Wendy. “Teens in CFS care in Winnipeg hotels say they’ve seen prostitution, drugs.” National (CBS Television). Article. Sept. 9, 2011.
“Teen Runaways- Parenting Teens. “Teen Runaways- Parenting Teens. N.p., n.d. Web. 30. Dec. 2014 <http://www.teenhelp.com/parenting-teens/teen-runaways.html>.