This is a serious subject Recycled Moms and faithful readers, however it is an issue that needs attention. I am going to just jump right in.
Studies show that one of every seven children will run away from home before the age of eighteen. The low number numbers indicate that 1.7 million kids run away every year. These children are at great risk. They can be killed or injured from violent attacks, can be lured or kidnapped into the sex trade or die from exposure or hunger.
Children who live with caregivers are even more at risk of leaving home and of falling into danger. Statistics are difficult to get because many caregivers never report the child as missing. They may fear authorities will permanently remove the child from their home and hope he or she will return on their own. It is thought that only 21% of caregivers ever report a child as missing. That is huge and shocking.
Some caregivers even get so frustrated and fed up with poor behavior that they throw the child out of the home. This has become so common that the term “throwaway children” has been coined. This heartbreaking phenomenon happens for many reasons. Sometimes a child has run away and told not to ever come back so they don’t. Often an angry parent may actually tell the child to leave and even force them to vacate the home.
Our Recycled Kids are even more at risk of running away or being thrown away because many have behavior issues, mental health issues, physical and emotional challenges and other problems. Some of them may not feel wanted or comfortable in the home of the caregiver and go off in search of love and nurturing. Of course the chances of that are almost nil. Most of these runaway children are targeted by sex traffickers within forty eight hours, are befriended and then forced into slavery and prostitution.
The average life expectancy for a child or young adult is only seven years from the time they are drawn into that life. They suffer from repeated sexual assaults, often dozes every day. They are beaten, tortured, starved, mutilated and harmed in other unimaginable ways. What can we do to ensure that our own precious kids do not end up in such horror?
- Make them feel loved at home. A warm, secure, safe environment is the foundation on which to build everything else.
- Refer to the home and everything in it as “ours” so your child has a sense of belonging and ownership.
- Develop and nurture an atmosphere of trust. If a child knows she can come to you no matter what the problem is then there will be no reason to lie or to run away because of fear.
- Spend time with the child every day. Turn off the televisions, computer and other distractions while talking. Sit on the edge of the bed at night for a few minutes. This is a moment when children often can open up. You might be surprised what they tell or ask during this time
Watch Them Carefully
- Do not allow computers, tablets, television and other electronics in the bedrooms. They should remain in common rooms where everyone can see the screens at any given moment.
- Most websites require children to be thirteen before they can have an account. Affirm these rules as necessary safety precautions.
- Set parental controls on tablets and computers and password protect them so undesirable media cannot be downloaded even by accident. Periodically check the history to see who the child has been chatting, emailing or communicating with.
- Chaperone children. This may sound old fashioned but is an effective way of teaching kids not to be alone with the opposite sex. This protects against false accusations and increases the chastity factor to almost one hundred percent effectiveness. In addition, if kids are taught not to be closed up alone in a room at ten then they will not be surprised to find it is not happening at sixteen. Many kids have run away because of a pregnancy or because they think they are in love.
Be Open About Life on the Street
- Children should not be overwhelmed with undue fear. They should know that life outside the home is not an answer and that life on the street is fraught with danger.
- Appropriately share information with the child about kidnapping, prostitution, drugs and other unhappy situations that runaway kids find themselves in, ones that lead to no good end.
- Involve the child with ways to help others. Volunteer to answer hotlines such as: The National Runaway Switchboard (1-800-RUNAWAY; http://www.1800runaway.org)
- KidsPeace National Centers for Kids in Crisis (1-800-334-4KID; http://www.kidspeace.org)
- Youth Crisis Hotline (1-800-HIT-HOME; http://www.1800hithome.com)
· If your child shows signs that he or she might run away make sure they know how to get help. Educate them about programs such as Greyhound Bus Line’s Home Free Program. It provides a free bus ticket home for kids twelve to twenty. This program has helped nearly 10,000 children get back home. https://www.greyhound.com/en/about/inthecommunity.aspx.
· Project Safe Place provides emergency assistance to kids in trouble. Participating businesses and agencies post a yellow and black sign that kids can look for, go inside and ask for help. This might be a ride home or a place to spend the night. http://www.safeplaceservices.org, or call (502) 635-3660.
· Seek counseling if possible if a child talks about running away. Sometimes an outside party can see both sides clearly and mediate.
Love Your Child
· I repeat, Love Your Child
When a child knows he or she is loved, talking about problems becomes easier and When people really love one another they make more of an effort to work things out
· Have Empathy With Your Child
Empathy is greatly different from sympathy. It means one person actually understands the other’s feelings and identifies with them rather than just feeling sorry for that person.
· Respect Your Child
People who speak to one another with respect honor a basic human and spiritual law, one that values the inner person
There are many more imperatives and ways to minimize the chances that your child will run away. This information is only a drop in the bucket. I hope and indeed challenge every caregiver to research further and put an action plan into place. Preventative measures save lives.