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Run away triggers Sex, ‘hype’ lifestyle and abuse influence children’s decision to leave home

Published:Monday | May 20, 2019 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Founder of Hear the Children’s Cry Betty-Ann Blaine has said that many children run away from home because of various factors such as abuse, the allure of sex and the desire to obtain things that their parents cannot afford to provide for them.

At the same time, Blaine is insisting that the systematic failure by parents to address concerns that the errant children have, most of which stem from within the home, are also serious contributing factors that should be urgently addressed.

More than 1,512 children were reported missing according to data from the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

The data shows a three to one ratio in the number of girls who were reported missing last year - 1,164, compared to 348 boys. Of this number, 155 girls and 31 boys are still missing. One boy and four girls were reported dead.

Since January 2019, the trend has not slowed. Up to April 30, police statistics show that 413 girls and 104 boys have been reported missing, with 126 girls and 26 boys still unaccounted for. Two girls were reported dead. Children are going missing at the rate of one every six hours or four per day.

Hear the Children’s Cry is Jamaica’s only voluntary organisation providing advocacy for child abuse, child safety and other issues.

“These children are leaving home because of the abuse; sexual, physical, verbal and emotional. Some are leaving home, I believe, because of the poor living standards there, in some instances. Poverty is a big issue and lots of them are leaving with friends because they tend to believe the grass is always greener elsewhere,” she said.

Blaine said however, that there were many parents whose story was that their teens, mostly girls, were uncontrollable.

She said that these parents have complained that their children have resisted instructions, while insisting to be left alone to attend parties.

“We are also hearing this from a lot more parents now that the children are running away from home for sex because they are involved in sexual relationships with either peers or with adult males. So that’s a huge problem. We have so many cases of girls who have gone missing and who returned pregnant. We are working with several of these children right now,” said Blaine.

She revealed a growing trend in which children leave home for school on a Friday morning, taking civilian clothing in their bags and do not return until Sunday evening.

“We are however, of the view that this problem of missing children can be solved if we can provide parents with the kind of support that they need to teach them how to better communicate with their children and to better supervise the errant ones,” noted Blaine.

Information from a police source points to certain time of the year when there is a significant increase in the number of children who go missing.

According to the source, the major increase comes during the annual boys and girls athletics championships.

“If you have Champs going on, that’s when we realize the number of children reported missing spikes. The same trend is noticed every year for the past few years around February 14, Valentine’s Day and of course during the summer holidays,” the source said.