According to the National Runaway Safeline, between 1.6 and 2.8 million young people in the United States run away each year. One in every seven children aged 10 to 18 will become a runaway at some point. This is a youth problem in America.
The month of November is designated as National Runaway Prevention Month.
Let's Talk About It
What constitutes a runaway? A youngster or adolescent who has abandoned their parents or legal guardians without their consent. While runaways are dissatisfied at home, most of them have families who are frantic to locate them. However, there are certain children that are abused at home. This is frequently at the heart of why they take the streets. An adolescent who hitchhikes to a city and lives on the street or in a shelter is a far more severe runaway. When these children go missing, they are very vulnerable and can become victimized quickly, almost at inconceivable rates.
Let There Be Light
For children and teenagers to leave their home is usually never an easy decision to make. Yet, there are several reasons which will lead them to a tipping point, thinking they have no other choice. They become unable to cope with their life ate home, the physical or sexual abuse, family conflicts, the lack of parental or guardian care, mental health issues, disabilities, substance abuse, the desire to be with a friend or a romantic partner, gang activities, school bullying, stress, loneliness, hunger, or even online enticement. Moreover, children frequently romanticize life on their own.
The National Runaway Safeline provided the following data on the reasons why children run away:
47% of youngsters have disagreements with their parents or guardians at home.
34% of runaways (80% of those females) were sexually abused at home.
Physical abuse was cited by 43% of youth as one of the primary reasons they left home.
While abuse is the most common cause for adolescents to leave their families, there are many other variables that exacerbate the physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Running Away: Episodic vs. Chronic
Before delving into why adolescents run away, it is necessary to analyze the many forms of running away that family counselors examine. Most pediatricians distinguish between two forms of runaway behavior: episodic and chronic.
An episodic runaway behavior, is when running away does not follow a pattern, but is instead sparked by a unique occurrence or experience that prompts an adolescent to abandon their family. If a kid or adolescent is mistreated, they may flee after a particularly heinous act. They may feel compelled to leave after coming out to their parents as homosexual or transgender, or to escape conflicts at school.
On the other hand, it is considered chronic when the youth engage in recurrent running away, which may be used sometimes as a method of manipulation; because those teens who run away usually have a place to go, such as another relative's residence, a friend's or significant other's house.
What could possibly go wrong?
The majority of runaways are between the ages of 10 and 14. They haven't learnt to take care of themselves at these ages, and they lack the skills to locate homes and other fundamental necessities. Runaway children are far more likely than children who live at home to become involved in risky crimes or become victims of human trafficking. Children who live on the streets frequently have to steal to satisfy their basic requirements. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol to get through the day as a result of depression and believing that no one cares about them. They may be targeted for assault, rape, sex trafficking, and/or murder. Living on the streets exposes you to the elements as well. Extreme cold or extreme heat can be hazardous to one's health. Unfortunately, many runaway youths wind up indulging in prostitution or drug peddling because they are starving for food or a place to stay. Predators are on the prowl. Children are easily manipulated to engage in all of these harmful activities; because they are in a vulnerable position.
So, what should we do?
Understanding why so many children flee is dependent on education and communication. One of the key reasons why children run away is the lack of problem-solving abilities.
As parents and caregivers, we must teach problem-solving skills, critical thinking, create an accepting environment, check in with our children frequently, establish a family set of rules, establish a family digital partnership, respond appropriately to threats, and act as if any child can run away at any time. Children flee from challenges they cannot handle. In the United States, there is a well-documented juvenile mental health issue, due to the upheaval in our everyday lives caused by a worldwide epidemic that has been difficult on our young in recent years, with forced school closures, disturbance of social life, and greater time spent online with digital gadgets.
What about the children who believe they will never be able to return home? They do not have a caring and supporting family or anyone who cares about them, are mistreated, and keep on relocating from one location to another. We must all look after these children, and raise awareness among them that there is assistance available. We need to distribute more materials at the grassroots level and get them into the hands of schools, community centers, places of worship, transit hubs, public toilets, and more PSAs—anywhere a desperate youngster could hear or look for assistance. It’s 2022. Most children own a phone or have access to other digital gadgets., So we should flood the internet with appropriate information and resources. Let us be leaders and take some solace in knowing that genuinely vulnerable children will have a chance to observe or even seek internet help if they are going to flee or even consider fleeing. At the very least, they can be prepared with supplies and know where they can go securely. Let us include this into our children's entire education and keep in mind that any youngster or adolescent can simply flee. It's time to talk about the youth problem openly and honestly.
Please forward this newsletter to your relatives and friends.
Engage. Educate. Empower ourselves as well as our children.
Community Brings About Change
Get educated. The National Runaway Safeline is the greatest place to learn more and/or share with children. They are there to listen. They are available to assist you. You are not alone. With the assistance of the Family and Youth Services Bureau, trained personnel are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week (FYSB). NRS manages the federally funded National Communication System for Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, which ensures that youth in crisis and those suffering homelessness may get help when they need it.
Take some action. Throughout the year, learn about the resources accessible to both adolescents and adults. Services provided include assistance, preventive education, information on how to become engaged, relevant blogging, local and national events, and volunteer opportunities. Everyone can do something to #ProtectOurChildren and make resources available for children to learn more.