Saving Runaways, With Law and Love


To the Editor:

Re “Recession Drives Surge in Youth Runaways” and “For Runaways on the Street, Sex Buys Survival” (“Running in the Shadows” series, front page, Oct. 26 and 27):

I would like to add a few points to your excellent articles about runaways.

While it may be true that “most of the estimated 1.6 million children who run away each year return home within a week,” many of the children who do stay on the streets remain there for years, and many of them will die on the streets or become institutionalized.

You mention “girls” when referring to child prostitutes. As a man who was arrested at 11 years old for prostitution, I know that this issue does not discriminate by gender. Many pedophiles and predators do not care as much about the gender of the victim as the age.

Though the system now identifies children as “victims,” it still treats them as criminals. There is much to be done to help these kids beyond criminalizing them.

Government agencies — foster care, human services and criminal justice — are not currently capable of helping and inspiring these children off the streets. Nonprofit organizations, many of which are closing because of the recession, and caring individuals will be the lifeline for these kids. These organizations are responsible for saving my life after being on the street from age 10 to 22.

If we all just dedicate a little of ourselves by sharing our worlds, we can help inspire and mentor these kids emotionally, academically and socially. Many are damaged and have years of spiritual healing ahead of them.

But you will find that we just want to be loved — and to have a secure home and a loving family.

Justin Early
New York, Oct. 27, 2009

The writer is a former board member of the National Network for Youth and the author of “StreetChild: An Unpaved Passage.”

To the Editor:

What you describe as “survival sex” in “For Runaways on the Street, Sex Buys Survival” is actually human trafficking, a serious federal crime that involves the buying and selling of human beings — in this case, girls.

Under the New York State Human Trafficking Act, the purchasers of children in the sex trade, rarely arrested and a category of exploiters who are generally invisible and escape scrutiny, could be charged with a felony.

In addition to taking cues from the groundbreaking programs in Dallas for runaways vulnerable to pimps and traffickers, New York law enforcement must at least begin to use its own anti-trafficking law, especially the provisions on demand, if it is serious about tackling the brutal exploitation of girls and women for profit by traffickers, pimps and “johns.” Taina Bien-Aimé

Executive Director
Equality Now
New York, Oct. 27, 2009

To the Editor:

There is no question the troubled economy has resulted in a growing number of homeless youth. This year alone the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center has experienced a 30 percent increase in the number of young people turning to us for housing, food, clothing and other support services.

But the article doesn’t mention a startling fact — a hugely disproportionate number of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

According to a 2006 report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 20 percent to 40 percent of homeless young people are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

In addition to the challenges all homeless youths experience, these youths often have the additional burden of rejection not only from their family, but also from society, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Curtis F. Shepard
Director
Children, Youth and Family Services
L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center
Los Angeles, Oct. 26, 2009

To the Editor:

It is important to note that not all runaways come from severely dysfunctional or violent households. In fact, most do not. Many families are simply unable to effectively cope with stress and conflict, and the child sees no alternative but to run.

At the Bridge, we have seen tens of thousands of runaways in our 39 years, and most want to return home. In fact, the most common desire expressed is for a caring adult in their lives that they can trust. Usually, that can be found within their family or extended family, but often that means a lot of counseling and support.

The problem arises when children in crisis have no safe place to go and end up on the street exposing themselves to the chilling consequences your articles so aptly report. What works are safe places for runaways to go to find not only safety, but also professional counseling and care to help the child and his or her family work through their issues. If home is still not a solution, foster care and other alternatives are considered.

The federal response to runaway children is woefully inadequate. More federal dollars are spent on abstinence education than on the principal federal program providing crisis shelter, counseling and family reunification.

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/02/opinion/l02runaway.html

Advertisements
Published in: on November 23, 2009 at 8:42 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://cjaye57.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/saving-runaways-with-law-and-love/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: