Runaway youth is a serious problem that America faces today. Whether it’s just a youth’s way of trying to hurt their parent’s feelings, threating to run away is no laughing matter. Sometimes it’s not a threat to run away, sometimes they leave unannounced leaving the parent usually with grief, anger, and confusion. Between 1. 6-2. 8 million youth run away each year in the United States (The Truth About Runaway Teens, 2013). Those numbers are just the numbers of youth running away. Even when a youth runs away, they have to fend for themselves on the streets, which sometimes have some devastating results.
In order to stay alive some of them have to resort to robbery, sexual acts, and sometimes those things can lead to death unfortunately. There are plenty of reasons why a child might run away; however, a common issue is their sexual orientation. Most LGBTQ children don’t run away, but they are forced out of their home by their parents. Some parents can’t accept their child’s sexual orientation. Frustrated or confused parents often let their emotions take charge, and that leads to a homeless child. Twenty percent of the homeless youth are the GLBTQ community (LGBT Homeless, 2012).
To prevent this type of runaway the parent needs to come to terms with their child’s sexual orientation. Gay youth homelessness has been an issue since at least the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, often regarded as triggering the modern gay rights movement, in which many homeless youth participated. Reliable research in this area has been limited, but a survey of shelters nationwide from 2011 to 2012 found that up to 40 percent of homeless young adults were LGBT, according to the study conducted by three human rights groups (Left Behind: LGBT Homeless Youth Struggle to
Survive on the Streets, n. d. ). Learning that their child is gay can sometimes be difficult to accept, but they always have to remember they are still the same child the parent loved yesterday, and since the day they were born. If the parent still feels strongly about the matter, it would benefit the parent to talk to someone about their insecurities and fears. Along with frustration or confusion there come many questions that the parents are thinking in their head. They usually ask is it my fault, did I do something wrong. id I show something inapp iate that might have caused it, and what will people think.
Most parents jump to conclusions like this situation is the worst information in the world. If your child approaches you and finally confides with what’s been going on and how s/he is feeling that parent should stay calm and process the situation. Getting emotional and riled up will only make you more upset, and make the child feel like they shouldn’t have even brought it up. Making them feel like they’ve done something wrong by approaching you.
If you feel like this is something you can’t handle on your own try and seek professional help or try to talk to someone about it. Keeping your feelings inside will only make the matter worst, because you’re not expressing your concerns which makes your questions unanswered, and your fears will be bottled up inside. However, some youth leave voluntarily because they can’t accept who they are yet. Just like parents the child feels confused about their sexuality, and don’t know how to handle it. Sometimes they will try to hide their sexuality, but it’s difficult to accept that they are bisexual or even transgender.
They’ll often run away because of this reason, or because they think their parents won’t accept them. Fear is the key word because this is ultimately why they leave. Going back to the previous paragraph a parent shouldn’t portray that their exasperated at the child when they tell them, because this creates fear in the child. If you do that this will make the child feel worthless and that you want nothing to do with them. Which is why they figure running away is the best solution not only for them, but for you because they feel you don’t have to deal with it anymore.
Now targeting gears towards the child, it would be a marvelous idea to start with close friends, then work their way up towards family members. Starting with friends could give a good support system before approaching the family. On some occasions parents don’t mind their child’s sexuality or the child doesn’t tell them at all, but school can be a harsh reality. These days’ children are cruel, and will find anything to push someone over the limit. School is where a youth goes five days a week, and if there are bullies harassing them about their sexuality, it can be not only nerve wrecking, but fear to come to school again.
It shows that eighty-six percent of gay or lesbian students were verbally harassed, fortyfour were physically harassed, and twenty-two percent were physically abused (Gay and Transgender Youth Homelessness by the Numbers, 2010) Because of this reason it makes the youth want to drop out at a very young age. If they run away, they won’t receive a job because they don’t have the necessary skills to obtain one. This is why this group needs more advocates and more shelters to have more training on education for them. Most youth who end up on the street either have money but eventually run out, or they came to street with nothing at all.
Unfortunately they see the only way to survive is to do sexual acts in favor for money. This is a real issue, because since they are underage some men can easily take advantage of them. Fifty-eight percent have been sexually abused, compared to the thirty-three percent who are heterosexual youth. Fortyfour percent reported being asked by someone for sex in exchange for money, drugs, shelter or clothes, compared to twenty-six percent of straight homeless youth (Gay and Transgender Youth Homelessness by the Numbers, 2010). Not only can they be sexually abused, but they kind wind up missing or worst, dead.
Some youths usually run away to a friend’s house, other times they are left to fend for themselves on the street. This now makes the runaway youth a homeless youth. There are shelters for youth, especially for the LGBT community, which means the child could always live there. It’s positive to have this type of program available in every city, because if a child leaves or is forced out of their home, there is nowhere left to turn. Often in their mind they think about what options to take, and unfortunately one of them is suicide.
Incidence of depression, suicide initiations, and other mental health disorders among all youth experiencing homelessness, and chronic physical health conditions are common as are high rates of substance abuse disorders. (LGBTQ Youth Homelessness) Some ideas that could benefit the runaway youth is to start building more shelters for the LGBTQ community. Helping them with finishing their education and maybe going as far as to assist them with a place to stay. If we can aid them to do that then the numbers would go down and the suicide rate for the homeless LGBTQ youth community would be severely reduced.
Besides who knows, after getting educated and from the experiences they had, they might become advocates for this issue. This group unfortunately has higher suicide rates, and is more likely to engage in risky social behavior. (LGBTQ Youth Homelessness) This is why we need advocates and social workers to help these kinds of situations. They can’t fully prevent the problem, but they are trained to aid and assess it. However, the public can reach in and help too. It takes a community to help improve the issue, and if the community starts working together they can help accomplish these goals too.
They can help donate, start becoming more informed, and spreading the word about the cause. It’s also good to start teaching youth ways to ignore the hatred they receive. In the Huffington Post article they made a very good statement “Is Not an Us/ Them Issue” (Shelton, LGBT Youth Homelessness Is Not an Us/Them Issue, 2014) Runaway youth is a serious issue that we should try to control. It’s not a sure way to prevent a child from running away, but there are steps to take beforehand and afterwards.
Whatever the reason may be for a child running way there are steps to take to not let it happen again. Parents should focus more on the parenting techniques to insure they’re doing a right by themselves and the child’s safety. Unfortunately, there are still homeless youth on our very streets, but we turn a blind eye on the issue. If we try to fund more outreach programs for this particular topic, then there might be hope for the LGBTQ youth community. If we take these steps outlined in this paper the runaway youth population could be immensly reduced.