DON’T FORGET THE LITTLE ONES SERIES
HOW IT ALL STARTED
No longer blind
Up to a few years ago, I walked blind. I was content inside my little world of happiness at home and the beauty of art. Life was good. The world had problems but those seemed a reality far removed from me and my family.
I truly didn’t know I was blinded and somehow managed not to trip on the truth until a work project open my eyes.
My work involved researching juvenile detention centers as well as halfway houses for teens. I always presumed these teens had been trouble makers involved with drugs and gangs. And that was it. With a hardened heart I had judged these teens to deserve to be where they were: incarcerated. They were probably a menace to society anyways, right?
Who Are These Forgotten Children?
However, the more I read, the more my heart started to turn. I realized that although some had committed serious crimes, these were children (yes children, not a faceless menace to society or heartless gang member but a child). Children that had no one to care for them, no one to turn to.
Most of them, according to statistics, grew up in fatherless homes and mom had to work two or more jobs to try and make ends meet in a drug infested neighborhood. If they made it to school, they came home to an empty house. Not all of them of course. Some were just so abused at home that they preferred the streets over a roof over their heads. The abuser in most cases was mom’s boyfriend. Sometimes it was dad.
Statistics say that the majority of trouble youths come from families that have generational dysfunction. The unhealthy, broken, abusive, violent environment and mind sets that surround them enlist them toward violent criminal behavior.
A sad stark reality came to light for me. These children had not known love, security or joy. The hardness in my heart crumbled. I knew I could no longer stand in judgment against them. I had never walked in their shoes.
Early on these little ones had to fend for themselves. There was no one to help them or love them. They could trust no one. The authority figures that were supposed to protect them were either absent or hurting them.
A grim future
Sadly, the statistics, predict the future of troubled children to be grim. If they reach adulthood (if not killed in a gang fight or while sleeping on the streets) they will most likely end up back in jail as adults.
“Once in the system, always in the system” goes the saying in the prison circles. Prison is more of a revolving door than a solution.
According to Mark Smith, from Children’s Home and Aid, more than 50 percent of youth offenders who are released from a juvenile detention center end up coming back.
Incredibly, their worst fate is not ending up in jail. Nope. Something worse than jail? Yeap!
I thought there could be nothing worse than jail until I read that a very high percentage end up being trafficked for life. From jail to slavery! What a terrible fate!
IS THERE HOPE?
What can I do? What can we do?
When we read statistics as sad as these it can seem hopeless and overwhelming.
However, there is much we can do to help kids and prevent them from running away or ending up in jail. It could be the kids right next door that need our help!
Be Part Of The Solution:
DON’T FORGET THE LITTLE ONES
First, we need to be willing to open our eyes and be informed. There are excellent resources available online to learn what puts youth at risk. Here is a start to learn more – check out the following organizations websites:
Children’s Home and Aid, a child and family services organization.
STANDUP FOR KIDS makes numerous presentations throughout the year, educating the general public, civic organizations, schools and church groups to the plight of homeless, street kids and at-risk youth. https://www.standupforkids.org/
Second, lets be a part of the solution. Kids at risk need trustworthy, caring and safe mentorship from an adult. They need someone to guide them, teach them and encourage them.
- Volunteer, give, and write about organizations that provide mentoring to kids.
- Share with friends and encourage them to do the same.
Some excellent reading material on how to help youth at risk:
Run, Baby, Run by Nicky Cruz, a former savage street gang leader tranformed – A true story.
The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. Also a true story leading gang members to change.
Stand by Me: The Risks and Rewards of Mentoring Today’s Youth (The Family and Public Policy) Describes the extraordinary potential in mentoring relationships.
For volunteer opportunities or to find more information, look for the following types of organizations in your city:
- Homeless Shelters and Programs
- Rescue Missions – Indexed by state
- Teen Challenge – Founded by David Wilkerson
- Youth centers
- Boys & Girls Clubs
- Royal Families Kids Camp
- Children’s Homes
- Youth Tutoring Programs
Share Your Thoughts
Next time, we’ll be sharing what puts any child at risk and practical tips on how to help.
Please let us know organizations that you have worked with or your experience with children at risk.
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