“Mummy, I am stepping out and I am returning when I so desire. I will be staying with a friend that I will not disclose to you because I do not want you to come looking for me.
“Do not bother calling the police because I will not say a word to them or anyone. Most likely they will not do anything since I will not testify in court against the friend I am going to spend two nights with, without your permission, even though I am just a teenager below the age of 16 years. Also, do not worry, I will not tell the police that I am abused or neglected at home or in my community because this is certainly not the case. As a matter of fact I am not ill-treated at home. Mummy, bye, see you later.”
From time to time a family is visited by the aforementioned scenario, when a child for no apparent reason decides to spend a couple of nights or more away from home sometimes with the knowledge of parents. In other instances a child runs away without the knowledge and consent of parents. Though the case presented refers to a female child, male children are not immune to taking a similar course of action.
Where do these children run away to? Some run to the arms of sexual predators who statutorily rape these children several times. Statutory rape given that the children are below the age of 16 years. As a result some of the children become pregnant or contract sexually transmitted infections.
The psychological health of a girl may be adversely affected considering their brains and bodies are not fully developed to cope with the demands of intimate relationships which are characterized by sexual activity. Not to be stereotypical, but to highlight a possibility that ever so often becomes a reality, some male children seek the perceived comfort and protection of drug lords and gang leaders. Not surprisingly, these boys are used as transporters to distribute drugs. Others are used to commit various offences such as theft, assault and even murder.
Yes, some will say that I have subjectively focused on the worse that can happen to a run away child. This is because many of these children return home without the aforementioned consequences impacting their lives. However, we should never forget that one child being harmed is one child too many.
Whether a child is impacted by running away the very act of the child spending nights away from home without parental consent is indeed worrisome. It signals the deterioration of the influence of parents on the minor. I need not to explore the secondary issues that may surface from the breaking up of the parent-child subsystem. Further, a child running away from home just to be liberated from the rules of parents to enjoy the freedoms of adulthood is symptomatic of a child who is not coping healthily with the storms of adolescence.
Our children are too precious to be lost in systemic loopholes. Every effort must be expended to ensure that our children do not expose themselves to the dangers of society. We must empower parents with the skills and knowledge required to exert a positive influence on their children and create a home environment which is free of the factors that may cause them to run away.
The internal issues causing the children to flee from home must be addressed with intensive clinic psychological counseling. These children have to be listened to by trained professionals in order for the issues to be resolved. Severe cases may require the placing of the child in a residential facility that is equipped to address the concerns of the children.
The custom of having residential facilities that only serve a male clientele should be a thing of past. We have to close this gender gap considering that some of our young girls are confronted with similar issues as their male counterparts.
Let us save our children by ensuring that their needs are adequately met.