The thoughts of very young runaways living on the streets is very worrying. There are many dangers. Street life is not safe, yet there are 10-12 year olds out there living by their wits. What do you think of this?
In both the United Kingdom and the United States of America, children are running away from home at a younger age. The Children’s Society in the UK are supporting children as young as 11 years of age and in America the National Runaway Switchboard says that there are 1-3 million children who are runaways or homeless and living on the streets. They say that children as young as 10 run away.
WHY DO CHILDREN RUN AWAY?
What concerns me is that not all children run to safety. They don’t go to Social Workers about problems and I know from having talked to some adults who were former runaways that this is because they worry about being made to return to the bad situation they left, they think they will not be believed, and they are afraid that they will get into worse trouble with their parents.
What would make a young child run away? I think the obvious one that comes to mind is physical, mental or sexual abuse at home. Not all children turn to agencies such as Childline. Some children mistrust the authorities, and avoid contacting help agencies. In cases of sexual abuse the abuser may have made specific threats to make sure the child does not contact the Police or Social Services.
Other reasons include having to watch domestic violence in the home. Even where the child is not directly experiencing abuse itself, witnessing it can lead to anxiety, frustration, and worse still they could be traumatised. This group of runaways will rarely seek help as they also fear the consequences.
Alcoholic or drug addicted parents can be a big issue. Neglect, anxiety caused by drunken behaviour such as arguing, falling down, and parents losing bladder and bowel control can all put pressure on children. also there is the issue of drunk friends of their parents becoming overly flirtatious and suggestive, causing anxiety and fear of sexual abuse.
Failing at school, wanting to drop out, or being bullied at school and seeing no way out of the situation is of growing concern especially in inner city areas where some schools are having pupil control issues. Not wanting to disappoint parents by bad grades is an issue, especially if the parents are perfectionists and have been voicing high hopes of their child’s achievements. Pressure also from domineering teachers who think that the child could do better when they genuinely can’t can lead to dropping out. The children may even be failing to achieve due to Attention Deficit Disorder which has not been diagnosed, or may be dyslexic for instance.