Posts Tagged ‘runaway youth’

When most people think of the homeless, they think of the mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics that would rather live off of the money they beg for on the street than to get a real job. But there is a large part that makes up a much darker side of the homeless community: Homeless youth. 

Homelessness among young people is a serious issue. Homeless youth in our communities are individuals who lack parental, foster or institutional care. They are the ones who have become invisible to most and an irritation to some.The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that on any given night there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers. Homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, substance abuse, and death. It is estimated that 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide. 

Common Reasons Why Youth Become Homeless:

Family problems: Many youths run away, and in turn become homeless, due to problems in the home, including physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse of a family member, and parental neglect. In some cases, youth are asked to leave the home because the parents cannot afford to care for them.

Transitions from foster care: Youth who have been involved in the foster care system are more likely to become homeless at an earlier age and remain homeless for a longer period of time. Youth aging out of the foster care system often have little or no income support and limited housing options and are at higher risk to end up on the streets.

Abuse in Foster Care

When there is suspicion of abuse or neglect in the home, child welfare services may intervene and the child can be removed from the family and be placed into protective services and eventually into foster care. Unfortunately, many of these children end up being abused and neglected in the foster homes that were supposed to be a safe haven for them. As a result, homeless youth often become frustrated and rather than continuing to endure the abuse, they resign themselves to a life on the streets alone. 

According to a report issued by Julie Rogers, the inspector general of Nebraska Child Welfare, At least 50 Nebraska children, some as young as 4 years old, had suffered sexual abuse while in the state’s care or after being placed in an adoptive or guardianship home from July 2013 through October 2016. All of the cases were reported to the state’s child abuse hotline and all were substantiated, either by the courts or by child welfare officials. Few details were released on the cases. According to another report issued by Rogers, sexual abuse and suicidal behavior among children in the care of the state increased again last year. There were 45 reports of child sexual abuse during 2017-18.

During the same 2017-18 period, there were two suicides and 52 suicide attempts involving youths whose care falls under the state umbrella. The previous year, there had been one suicide and 45 suicide attempts. The 52 attempts involved 49 youths, three of whom made multiple attempts. 

Research has shown that 43% of runaway and homeless youth were sexually abused before they left their homes. These young people often flee abuse at home or in foster care, but are exposed to further sexual victimization and human trafficking once on the street. One of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours after leaving home. And the average age of entry into prostitution is fourteen. 

These children often grow up in broken and dysfunctional homes where love and affection are absent. Instead of protection, many times these children receive brutal treatment. Their self-esteem is beaten to the point of feeling unworthy of any respect or fair treatment. They are insulted, humiliated, threatened, yelled at and isolated. They endure repeated sexual abuse—sometimes from several perpetrators. All of these factors may contribute to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional problems which lead them to start using drugs as a way to cope. 

28% of youth living on the street and 10% of those in shelters engage in what is often referred to as “survival sex”. (Exchanging sex for money, food, drugs or a place to stay) Most of these children come from horrific living conditions. They find themselves vulnerable, desperate, and in need of surviving. They require basic needs like food and shelter; therefore, they give into survival sex. 

The situation for these youth is dire. But there is help available for homeless youth in our community. The Youth Emergency Services (YES) has a shelter that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with youth workers, counselors and homeless youth advocates. The shelter is available to youth ages 16 to 20.

Youth seeking shelter services are screened to ensure appropriate placement and safety of the residents. The emergency shelter is a family-style residence with separate sleeping areas for male and female clients. Youth share meals, television and computer privileges, and recreation and laundry facilities in a community area.

A trained staff of counselors, advocates and youth workers spends individual, focused time with residents to help them work through the problems they face. YES exists to help these youth turn their lives around. You can find out more about YES volunteer opportunities and ways to to help at: https://www.yesomaha.org 

We need to change our mindset and preconceived ideas about these helpless children that lead us to make erroneous conclusions. Many of us may have looked the other way and denied ourselves the opportunity to help. It may be that the assumptions made in regards to the homeless youth are what is preventing us from aiding and reaching out to them. If we did, perhaps there would not be over one million of our youth living on the streets each year in the United States.

 

Black Lives Matters March; Women’s March; The Me Too Movement; and recently the student demonstrators marching on Washington, calling for action against gun violence after the recent massacre at a South Florida high school. 

Every one of these protests were supported and echoed by professional athletes, Hollywood entertainers and politicians. Every news channel covered these events almost every day. 

But do you know what none of the media were reporting? What professional athletes, Hollywood entertainers and politicians refused to speak out against? The epidemic of child sexual abuse in homes across the country! In fact, there is more community outrage about animal abuse than there is about child abuse! And the only time the news reports any type of child abuse is when it involves multiple sex trafficking, the death of a child, or some horrendous act perpetrated on a child that the news outlets can sensationalize. 

It is reported that 1 in 5 children have been sexually abused before reaching the age of 18. That means that out of the 500,000 students who marched on Washington protesting gun violence, over 100,000 of them had been sexually abused at some time in their childhood—AND THEY SAID NOTHING!

Nebraska law now requires that any child, age 3-18, who has experienced sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and neglect, witnessed a violent crime, or who has been recovered from a kidnapping or found in a drug endangered environment, be interviewed at a Child Advocacy Center by a trained professional. 

In 2015 4,945 children were served by a Child Advocacy Center in Nebraska alone. And out of those 4,945 children served, nearly half had reported being sexually abused—91% were abused by someone the child knew well; a step-parent, relative or caregiver.

Yet, sadly, for every one child that discloses sexual abuse, many more remain silent. Because they are either too afraid, or too ashamed, or both. The number of child abuse cases would easily double, if every child that should be seen at a Child Advocacy Center under state law was actually provided that opportunity. 

http://nebraskacacs.com/Docs/2015%20Annual%20Report%20-%205.30.16%20-%20Compressed%20V2.pdf

Many of us have heard the stories from the Me Too Movement how traumatic it was for adults to be sexually harassed or assaulted. If it’s traumatic for an adult to be sexually harassed by someone, how much more traumatic is it for a child to be sexually assaulted in their own home by someone they trusted and was supposed to care for them? http://theweek.com/articles/749634/how-metoo-leaving-child-victims-behind

To make matters worse, even when the perpetrators are arrested and charged, most judges only sentence them to probation and require them to register as a sex offender— which does nothing to protect vulnerable children. 

The Sex Offender Registration law in many states do not have any restrictions on registered sex offenders. This is a common misperception. The SOR law in these states does not prevent an offender from attending events, limit employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities—schools, playgrounds, children museums or other public places where children congregate. Some states do not even restrict a convicted child abuser from living with or socializing with their victim! In many states The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time. This is another reason many victims of child sexual abuse never speak out or report their abuse—they know that they will never get justice.

There are many organizations across the country who are working with law enforcement and legislators to fight against child sex trafficking and rescue its victims. I applaud the work that they do, but they are they are working on the symptom instead of the root cause. 

Research has shown that 43% of runaway and homeless youth were sexually abused before they left their homes. These young people often flee abuse at home, but are exposed to further sexual victimization and human trafficking once on the street. One of every three runaway teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. And the average age is fourteen. Many of these children will be trapped in prostitution for years before they escape—and the trauma they experience could affect them well into their adult years.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! 

April is both National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There are many ways in which adults can make a critical difference in a child’s life. Whether you are a parent, teacher, coach, neighbor, or family member, you can help. 

Caring adults can support the healthy growth and development of children who have experienced abuse by helping them recognize that it’s not their fault and that you believe them. Children who are able to confide in a trusted adult and feel they are believed by that adult will experience less trauma. Children who falsely claim to have been sexually abused only make up less than 1% of all reported cases.

It is time for adults to speak out for those who have no voice!

For more information on what you can do to prevent child sexual abuse visit the sites below:

https://www.d2l.org

https://laurenskids.org

http://justiceforchildren.org

http://www.smallvoices.org