I had to post on this topic, even though I'm not done reading up on it. So, I apologize if this post seems half-baked. It probably is.
I've been reading up on child abuse, runaways, shelters and foster parenting. I know, not exactly the most cheerful of topics to blog on, but it's soooo important!
Child abuse and runaway teens...topics that many pretend don't exist...topics our society likes to minimize...unless it works to their advantage. Do you realize the horrors of abuse? Do you understand what happens to runaways? I read a book that chronicled the stories of some runaways. The one that stands out in my mind the most is that of a 15-year-old girl. Understand that she was 15 when she came to a shelter and told her story. She was 12 when the trouble began. Yes, she was 12 when her dad raped her...on multiple occasions. She told her mom, but her mom didn't believe her. Then, her grandpa raped her...and her uncle...and one of her cousins...She went to her mom each time, but her mom refused to believe her. She was left alone and helpless, a victim to those who should've protected her. It didn't take long for her to decide that she would be better off on the streets. So, she ran away.
Most kids that run away don't plan ahead. They simply don't have time to. As a result, they will end up on the streets with only the clothes on their backs. Unfortunately, most kids run away in summer, thinking their chances of survival are better...which leaves them with only shorts (maybe jeans) and a t-shirt when summer begins to turn to winter. Needless to say, many don't survive the winter, unless someone finds them...someone from a shelter might feed them...maybe warm them...but they are far more likely to be found by pimps, drug dealers, and gangs.
Did you know that most girls meet up with a pimp within 48 hours of running away? These girls (and yes, they are girls...most are only 13 or 14 years old) don't often know what they are getting themselves into. They don't know what it means to "turn tricks". Or, they fall victim to the pimp's charms. Yes, pimps have charm. They'll find these frightened girls on the streets and offer to buy them food, clothing, give them a place to stay. Then, they'll suddenly demand that the girls pay him back. Since the girls don't have money, they are expected to sell themselves to appease their pimp. They become trapped, stuck working for a pimp that will more than likely beat them...earning money from men who will likely beat them while taking any innocence they have.
It's very similar for the kids who become drug runners or join a gang. They think they've found someone who cares about them and will take care of them. Instead, they're forced to perform acts they know are wrong in order to survive to see another day.
The other major peril for kids on the streets? Pedophiles. No, I don't mean the people paying to be with adolescent girls. I mean the predators that prowl the streets in order to abduct -- and have their way with -- street kids. Why? Because they know no one will be looking for those kids. No one will notice their missing, which increases the chance of the pedophile getting away with whatever it is he/she wants.
You may think that it's the kids' faults...I mean, they did runaway from home, and they're the ones who decided to live that way...but think about it. Those kids had such terrible home lives that the streets seemed safer...homelessness seemed like it was the safest option. Obviously, we've underestimated what they've been through. As for the kids who run away just to scare their parents, they usually return home within 48 hours. Those aren't the runaways we're talking about.
If you haven't read A Child Called It, I recommend that you do. It will illustrate just what I'm talking about. There are parents out ther who are sick. There are parents out there who beat their kids...or only one of their kids...who make their kids into slaves...or rape their own children. It's disgusting, but it's true.
That's why shelters for runaways deserve our support. That's why foster parenting is sooo important. Yes, there are abusive foster parents, but much of the reason they are foster parents is because not many people are willing to take their place. There aren't enough foster homes and not enough places in them for all the kids who need a home. Those children who are "wards of the state", who don't know that they deserve to be loved, so many of them end up in Juvenile Detention Centers. Why? Simply because there isn't an open place in a foster home for them. I can't lie...it makes me cry.
It makes me cry to think that there are kids who think they are unwanted...that they are terrible...that they deserve the abuse...that they don't deserve to be loved...or who have never been told that they are loved and special and beautiful...I cry for all those kids who don't know what it's like to have a loving family, a mom and a dad who would die for them...who don't know what it's like to live in a home.
The frustrating thing is that while something must be done -- shelters should be supported and foster parenting should be promoted and supported -- those will never solve the problem. Those will assist the children who have already suffered, but they won't prevent more from suffering in the same way. This is a much bigger problem. The family unit needs to be strengthened and supported as well, to help families to work to prevent abuse, to create loving homes and healthy families. Family is the key.
I leave you with a song by John Michael Montgomery....it relates...and it makes me cry. enjoy ;)
The Little Girl
Her parents never took the young girl to Church
Never spoke of His name
Never read her His word
Two non-believers walkin' lost in this world
Took their baby with them
What a sad little girl
Her Daddy drank all day and Mommy did drugs
Never wanted to play
Or give kisses and hugs
She'd watch the TV and sit there on the couch
While her Mom fell asleep
And her Daddy went out
And the drinking and the fighting
Just got worse every night
Behind their couch she'd be hiding
Oh, what a sad little life
And like it always does
The bad just got worse
With every slap and every curse
Until her Daddy in a drunk rage one night
Used a gun on her Mom
And then took his life
And some people from the city
Took the girl far away
To a new Mom and a new Dad
Kisses and hugs everyday
Her first day of Sunday school the teacher walked in
And a small little girl stared at a picture of Him
She said, "I know that Man up there on that cross
I don't know His name but I know He got off
Cause he was there in my old house
And held me close to His side
As I hid there behind our couch
The night that my parents died"
P.S. - This issue/matter really is important to me...family is so imporant, and as a family of believers, we should be eager to welcome new members in. We were given the spirit of adoption, why wouldn't we want to share that same spirit with a frightened child? (Just in case my future husband is reading/will ever read this, he should know that I would love to do something more than just talk about helping these kids...maybe even becoming a foster parent? Maybe just volunteering at a shelter? Regardless, know that I sincerely care about these kids...I will not forget them)