Give a Child a Soft Place to Fall and Their Story Will Unfold
We need to save children who are running away before they end up on the street or worse for the long term. Running is an indicator of ABUSE.
What can you do? I am often asked how to help a runaway. I can only answer with what I know I wish someone had done for me.
Befriend the child, mentor the child…do not ask questions. Build a relationships of trust. Show the child that they matter. Because of the abuse we are experiencing we are being told verbally and non-verbally that we are worthless. We believe this to be a fact. We don’t question it. As a child on the streets, when I ran I actually believed that everyone would forget I ever existed. It was years after my return that I learned how much I was missed and worried about. Very recently, a childhood friend shared with me that he said a prayer for me everyday. I cried for days after hearing this. It breaks my heart for myself to know that now. My mother imbedded feelings of worthlessness so deep into my soul…in my whole being that even as an adult it surprised me to find out that anyone cared at all. I truly believed I was forgotten.
Be a safe haven. Once you have built trust begin asking the child why they run. Let them know your conversations are confidential and *DO NOT BETRAY THAT TRUST. It will take time, commitment and restraint. NEVER and I mean NEVER address what is said by the child to the offending parent or relative. They will make the child pay and as a result the child will be silenced. One of my aunts attempted to intervene and in a well meaning moment said something to my mother. I don’t know what she said, I only know the result. My mother verbally attacked me telling me that my ENTIRE family though I was sick in the head. That I needed a shrink and if I didn’t shut my mouth she would send me to one and then she would have proof as to how sick I was. I never spoke out again.
Unfortunately emotional abuse is difficult to prove. The majority of the abuse I experienced between the ages of 9 and 13 at the hands of my mother was emotional. I can tell you that if someone had consistently been in my corner, a soft place for me to fall I would have made it through. I ran because I had no one. I ran because I could no longer cope with the abuse. Everyday in my mother’s house was like walking through a minefield. If someone had consistently spent time building my self esteem I would have had enough moments of peace to get me through. I would have known that I mattered to someone. when my first step-father was alive I rarely ran. In fact I only ran when he was out of town. He wasn’t just a buffer between my mother and I. She would still emotionally abuse me when he was at work or worse. He was a stabilizing source, a source of love and affection that I cold look forward to. After he passed away my running to flight again because I had no one.
*Obviously if the child has bruises from physical abuse or reports sexual abuse law enforcement and/or social services needs to be called in. Do this in partnership with the child and assure them you will stand by them throughout the process.
The following video is of a basketball coach that saved a child from being sex trafficked by her father. She did EVERYTHING right.
Covenant House Locations and Services Help Thousands of Homeless Kids
Covenant House has shelter facilities are in Anchorage, Atlanta, Atlantic City, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Managua, Mexico City, Milpas Altas, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, Orlando, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tegucigalpa, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington, D.C.
For homeless youth all across the U.S., Canada and Mexico – who aren't near one of our sites and need immediate help – Covenant House also operates two toll-free crisis hotlines.
Help is just a phone call away
Covenant House works in collaboration with the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) – a crisis care hotline that can provide you with assistance 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
1-800-RUNAWAY or visit www.1800RUNAWAY.org