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Difficult Child Behavior

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When Your Teen is in Trouble with the Law

 

 

 

 

Why Teens Run Away

Things to Do If Your Teen Runs Away  -  Helpful Guides

 When Your Teen Returns HomeRunaway Prevention

You Can Connect & Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Child

 

 

According to the National Runaway Switchboard,

every day between 1.3 and 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth

live on the streets of America.

 

One out of every five children will run away before the age of 18.

 

 

Seventy-five percent of runaways who remain at large for two or more weeks will become involved in theft, drugs, or pornography, while one out of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.  Gay or bisexual youth are even more likely to be involved in prostitution.

 

 

 

Among the findings of a study titled The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada and Mexico (pdf):

  • 325,000 children are reported as being sexually exploited in the United States annually.  Of that figure, 121,911 ran away from home and 51,602 were thrown out of their homes by a parent or guardian.

  • Among runaway and homeless youth, approximately 30% of shelter youth and 70% of street youth engaged in prostitution in order to meet their daily needs for food, shelter, drugs, etc.

  • 75% of children who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation are from middle-class backgrounds.

  • 40% of the girls who engaged in prostitution were sexually abused at home, as were 30% of the boys.

Other risks that runaways face are malnutrition, psychological disorders, HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse, robbery, and sexual abuse and physical assault have all been found in high proportions among these young people.  Major depression, conduct disorder, and posttraumatic stress are also higher among runaway youth.

 

 

 

Why Teens Run Away

 

Teens leave home for a wide variety of reasons, including trouble in school, arguments with their family, problems that arise due to their sexual orientation, and the influence of predators.

 

Runaways may leave on impulse, protesting a family quarrel over a rule or an isolated incident.  But the main motivation for running away seems to be neglect or abuse at home.  They decide that their only chance to survive is to run away.

 

However, what many of these teens learn is that they are no safer on the streets.  From the mid-1970s to the present time, life on the streets has become more dangerous owing to increasing sexual exploitation and drug use.  The dangers they face are often more harrowing than anything they would face at home; yet when they weigh their options, many of these teens often choose to stick it out on their own — believing they have at least some control over their lives — rather than return to an environment where they know they will be abused.

 

Situational Runaways are the largest group of runaways, comprised of young people who leave home for a day or two after a disagreement with parents.  Although they may be seen in runaway shelters or spend a brief time on the street, they usually return home within a few days.  A small percentage may repeat this behavior and remain away for longer periods.  If so, they become a part of the chronic runaway group.

 

The suburban kid who runs to a friend's house the first time may turn into a chronic runaway who eventually finds her way to the heart of the nearby city, where other rootless kids hang out.

 

Runaways may leave for long periods of time, often progressing from repeat runaway to chronic runaway to street youth.  The latter do not return home at all, but live in transitory housing, such as friends' apartments, shelters, cheap hotels, abandoned buildings ("squats"), or underneath high bridges.  They tend to hang out at fast food restaurants, shopping malls and video arcades. These youth are usually totally on their own for their survival and are frequent victims of the violence and numerous dangers of the streets.

 

Throwaways are defined as youth who have left home because their parents have abandoned them, asked them to leave, or subjected them to extreme levels of abuse or neglect.  Many in this group may have spent time previously with relatives or had periods of residence in foster care.

 

NEXT:  When Your Teen Returns Home

 

 

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More Information

 

America's Hidden Crime:  When the Kidnapper is Kin ~ This report takes a comprehensive look at the serious but rarely understood crime of family abduction — when a child is kidnapped by a member of his or her own family.

 

An Awkward Age ~ Runaway teens don’t belong in adult court, but they’re often too old for juvenile court.

 

The Criminal Justice System's Response to Parental Abduction (pdf) ~ Parental abduction can have a devastating impact on the child who is abducted and also the parent who is left behind.  Parental abduction is a crime in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia and, in most cases, constitutes a felony.

 

Impact of Family Child Abduction (pdf) ~ Families where abduction has occurred may have experienced pre-stressors.  Pre-stressors refer to the stress in these people's lives before their children were abducted.  Typical pre-stressors include domestic violence, separation, divorce, child abuse, neglect, loss of job or housing, and financial insecurities.

 

The Jenna Hart Abduction Story ~ How one family got their daughter back.

 

Kidnapping of Juveniles ~  Among other findings, this report reveals that there are three distinct kinds of perpetrators, and that the rate of juvenile kidnapping peaks in the afternoon.

 

Making a Place for Homeless Teens ~ Part of the problem is that the welcome mat isn't always out for homeless teens, despite laws designed to remove barriers to their education.

 

Missing-children cases fumbled by police nationwide ~ The National Child Search Assistance Act requires police to immediately accept any report of a missing child and file that report with federal authorities and the state's missing-child clearinghouse.  Failure to report often makes it impossible for police anywhere to determine if a child is missing.  While most missing children are returned home safely, police have no way of knowing which children are in real danger.

 

National Estimates of Children Missing Involuntarily or for Benign Reasons (pdf) ~ Children missing involuntarily because they were lost or injured were disproportionately white, male, and older.  They disappeared most frequently in wooded areas or parks and from the company of their caretakers.  Children missing as a result of benign circumstances and miscommunications were disproportionately teenagers who failed to come home or were gone longer than expected.

 

Out of Sight:  Missing Children in America ~ Victim and predator profiles; abduction facts; predator protection; sex offender registries; state resources.

 

Parents of Runaways Fend for Themselves ~ Police put off searching in most cases.

 

Prostitution of Juveniles (pdf) ~ Both international rings and interstate crime operations traffic young girls to distant places with promises of employment and money.  Runaway and homeless you on city streets are recruited by pimps or engage in "survival sex."  Drug pushers force addicted teens to prostitute themselves as a condition for receiving drugs or a place to stay.

 

Runaways in Florida ~ Florida, the fourth largest state, has the nation's second largest population of runaways, with 60,00 reports annually.  The average age of a runaway is 13, and more than 70 percent come from middle- to upper- income families.  Here is a series of eye-opening articles on runaways.

 

Runaway / Thrownaway Children:  National Estimates and Characteristics ~ This bulletin provides information on the number and characteristics of children who are gone from their homes either because they have run away or because they have been thrown out by their families or caretakers.

 

Running Away from Foster Care: Youths' Knowledge and Access of Services (pdf) ~ Youth who have had multiple foster care placements are more likely to run away from their homes than youth who have only been placed once in a foster care setting. This report shows that most runaway youth leave within the first 6 months after being placed, and that most of these youth have run away multiple times, with 25 percent running away more than 10 times.

 

Substance Use Among Youths Who Had Run Away From Home ~ Among youths aged 12 or 13, 6% had run away and among those aged 16 or 17, 10% had run away from home in the past 12 months.  Youths who had run away from home in the past 12 months were more likely to have used alcohol, marijuana, or an illicit drug other than marijuana in the past year than youths who had not run away.

 

Teens in Trouble: The Life and Death of Christal Jean Jones ~ Christal Jones was runaway, later found murdered in a Bronx brothel.  For Vermont parents shepherding children through the rocky adolescent years, the harshness and brevity of this Burlington teen-ager’s life is difficult to face.  It could have been their child.  She was only 16..

 

Why Are They Still Missing? ~ Indifference, delays, and haphazard reporting.

 

 

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