Are Juvenile Facilities ‘Safe’ for Homeless Teens?

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In residential treatment centers across Illinois, children are assaulted, sexually abused and running away by the thousands – yet state officials fail to act on reports of harm and continue sending waves of youth to the most troubled and violent facilities, a Tribune investigation found (“Children Attacked…).

According to “SafeHorizon.org,” a service and refuge for homeless teens, there are 1.7 million teens living on the street every year. UNICEF reports 153 million children worldwide have lost one or more parents. More thanCited: 7 million are in institutional care.

Many never ever expect a life like this, while others live daily expecting the worst. Whether trauma has been ongoing in the home or has surrounded a teen or it is a sudden incident, teens are feeling bad or are literally forced into an unknown habitat not of their own choice. Aging out of the state foster care system with no money and no job training leads to teen homelessness. We need to strengthen our future generations to break this cycle.

homeless teens
Homeless Teens

In reports, children under 18 account for 39% of the homeless population. Worse, those housed in facilities and group homes are reportedly being abused. The abuse reports not only come by the youth (“Girl Exposes…) but the unfolding of the hidden information shown in documents in the court system. The Post and Courier News in South Carolina reports hidden abuse from taxpayers who pay to warehouse children in group homes and institutions. One report was released that an autistic child was beaten by staff members and recorded on camera. A report from a youth who had been filmed on the web told of her stories of physical and mental abuse with her experiences in group homes.

The state department doesn’t make their records accessible. Where Social Services are the ones to hide the records, they are also the ones granted permission to dismiss their cases against themselves clearing their names. Federal data shows staggering numbers of children, as high as 24,702 under the age of 12, being placed in group homes throughout the states (Children’s Bureau 2013). The children are labeled troubled and abnormal. When I did a Google search for group homes for teens, the children were labeled troubled juveniles instead of victims without a home. Some have even been abused before entering these homes.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said in a statement, “As the committee heard during a hearing on domestic sex trafficking and of children and youth in foster care, traffickers know where these group homes are and target the children placed in them for prostitution.” Reports of fights, drug use, and children having sex with adults, at the time of responding to 74 calls, police reported at Family First’s 2100 Fifth Street Group Home in CA. It was finally shut down.

Patrick McCarthy of the Casey Foundation supports closing large secure juvenile facilities to any state willing to join the commitment. The foundation has worked for reform to the juvenile system for 23 years. When he first administered a facility, he found children in shackles, loud noise, glaring lights, and correction officers with mace and isolation rooms for the youth. 5,000 of these children will die each year. Segregation to services received come from health and social services. The idea is placed in our youth’s minds – placing fear with no alternative or service for them.

According to statistics 75% will eventually self medicate to cope. Where will they turn?

Cited:

“Annie E. Casey Foundation CEO Calls for States to Close ‘Youth Prisons’ – The Annie E. Casey Foundation.” The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

“Children Attacked, Abused at Taxpayer-funded Living Centers.” Chicagotribune.com. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

“Child Welfare Outcomes Report Data.” Child Welfare Outcomes Report Data. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

“Girl Exposes CPS PART 1.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

“Rape, Drugs and Disorder Shake California Group Home and Provoke Reform Efforts.” Top Stories RSS. 2 Apr. 2015. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Sapien, Joaquin. “Congress to Consider Scaling Down Group Homes for Troubled Children.” Top Stories RSS. Propublica.org, 20 May 2015. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

“South Carolina Laws Hide Child Abuse inside Group Homes.” Post and Courier. 23 July 2015. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Lori Finnila aka Lori Jean is a former radio show host of the Women Empowerment Show who writes on women’s issues. She studys creative writing and screenwriting, is a recording artist with music at iTunes, and an author