Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Motherless Teens: Braving the World

Mothers Day is fast approaching. Although my mother has been gone for many years, this day is still full of ambivalence for me. I love being a mother and having the opportunity to spend time with my girls. At the same time, I am always acutely aware of the too early loss of my mother. I was only 28 and pregnant with my oldest daughter, Kat, when she died. I have already outlived her. Neither of my girls ever knew her; and although Pat, my stepmother, was an incredible grandmother for them, there has always been the poignancy of wishing they could have known my mother.

If Mothers Day carries such feelings for me, I can only imagine how painful the day must be for our teens, many of who have never known their mothers, were abandoned by or taken from them, or whose mothers are no longer living. It is easy to forget for those of us who work here that all of these kids come to us out of some form of tragedy—broken family, abuse, abandonment, forced removal….the list goes on. Try as we might, we cannot always give them their mothers back….and that is what they ALL want…..regardless of what they say or how they act or how old they are.

It is a fine line that we walk with our teens. For although we must be there to support them, dry their tears, talk with them about their sadness, encourage them, hold them accountable, help them make the best of themselves, we must NEVER try to be their mothers—even when they want us to. Why? Simply, they already have a mother—good or bad, present or absent, alive or deceased. We cannot and should not take her place.

We can love them, be proud of them, pick them up when they fall, welcome them back when they run, always and always be there for them. But we cannot be their mothers….and we must always remember that their first choice would ALWAYS be to have her back. And it should be ours, also.

If your mother is living, hug her extra hard this Mothers Day. If she is deceased, light a candle for her…..and for all the missing mothers of our teens….and for our teens…..who brave the world without her. It was not easy at age 28 to be in the world without my mother…..imagine how hard it is for our kids.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who Protects Teens?

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

When we hear "child abuse", we normally associate it with young children. However, there is a large group of kids that is mostly ignored who endure many kinds of abuse from family members, peers, institutions, churches, and communities. Teens continue to be left out of the child abuse discussion; and yet, 95% of the teens who come to Promise House have experienced some form of abuse....recently....not just when they were young. Abuses such as: being hit or slapped by a parent repeatedly; sexual assault by a parent, step-parent, family acquaintance, or peer; being kicked out of their home because they are gay or lesbian, or pregnant, or are old enough to "fend for themselves"; being "pimped out" by parents or other adults; living with drug addicted adults; being used as "drug runners".....the list goes on and on.

Why does concern for kids stop at age 13? Where are the systems to protect these young people? Child Protective Services rarely rates an abuse call about a teen as Priority 1--partly due to the overwhelming number of abuse cases, period. I guess they figure teens have a better chance of saving themselves than does a child. BUT, and this is a BIG but.....that is rarely the case. Very few teens are actually able to escape an abusive situation on their own---think about it---where are they going to go, besides the street??

I've said it many times....just because teens have grown-up doesn't mean they are grown up. They still love getting stuffed animals when they come here; love being read to, getting their hair brushed, doing "make believe" nails and hair, playing silly games. They still cry at night, are still scared of the dark, still have bad dreams. They are kids. Yes, they are big....sometimes REALLY big....but they are need of protection.

Please remember them in the discussions about child abuse this month. And, please remember, they need our protection EVERY month, not just in Child Abuse Prevention Month.