When Childhood Is Lost
“Childhood is the most basic human right of children.”—“The Hurried Child.”
YOU would likely agree that all children should be able to enjoy a relatively carefree and innocent childhood. Nonetheless, it is a sad fact of life that for many young boys and girls, such a childhood is out of reach. Just think of the thousands, perhaps millions, of childhood dreams that are shattered when children become victims of war. Imagine, too, all those children whose lives are blighted by slavery or abuse.
For most of us, it is difficult to imagine how a child feels when forced to live on the streets because of feeling safer there than at home. Just when they need all the love and protection they can get, such children have to learn to be streetwise enough to fend off predators eager to exploit them. Again and again, childhood itself is a casualty of our troubled times.
“I Wish I Could Have My Childhood Back”
Carmen, aged 22, struggled through her childhood years.* She and her sister were forced to live on the streets in order to escape their father’s abuse and their mother’s neglect. Despite the dangers of living this way, both girls managed to dodge some of the pitfalls that engulf so many young runaways.
Still, Carmen grieves for her childhood, for she really cannot recall having one. “I went from infancy to 22 years of age with nothing in between,” she laments. “Now I am married and have a child of my own, but I crave to do the things little girls do, like playing with dolls. I want to be loved and hugged by parents. I wish I could have my childhood back.”
There are large numbers of children who suffer as Carmen and her sister did. They live on the streets, essentially robbed of their childhood. Many of these engage in crime in order to survive. News reports and statistics show that children are getting involved in crime at startlingly early ages. Exacerbating that problem is another one: Many girls become parents while still in their teens—really, children themselves.
A Hidden Social Crisis
Not surprisingly, increasing numbers of children wind up in foster care. An editorial printed in the Weekend Australian newspaper reported: “A crisis in foster care has crept up on us. More children from broken homes and fractured families are falling through the cracks.” The newspaper also noted: “Some foster children go for months, even years, without any contact from caseworkers, while others are moved from carer to carer, never finding a permanent home.”
One reported case involved a 13-year-old girl who was placed in 97 foster homes in a period of three years—some placements lasting just one night. She recalls now the intense feelings of rejection and insecurity that afflicted her. For many foster children like her, childhood has been lost.
Little wonder, then, that experts today speak of the growing tragedy of lost childhood. If you are a parent, you may look at these grim facts and count yourself fortunate to be able to provide your children with a home and the necessities of life. But there is another danger. In today’s world childhood is not always lost altogether. Sometimes it is merely rushed. How so, and with what effects?
Name has been changed.