Bad Economy Creates More Young Runaways

Filed under: In The News

The bad economy is influencing kids to run away from home. Photo: Monica Almeida, The New York Times / Redux

More kids, many of them not even in their teens, are running away from home because of the depressed economy.

According to The New York Times, government officials, experts and homeless advocates have noticed the surge over the last two years. They blame the economy. Adults' frustrations with layoffs, foreclosures and the increasing difficulty of putting food on tables and roofs over heads have led to tensions -- and even hostility -- on the home front, The Times reported. Kids respond by escaping.

Sometimes parents just abandon them.

"Several times a month we're seeing kids left by parents who say they can't afford them anymore," Mary Ferrell, director of the Maslow Project, a resource center for homeless children and families in Medford, Ore., told The Times.

Clinton Anchors, 18, is a runaway in Medford who left his home when he was 12. He told The Times that he and five other teenagers live together and teach new runaways how to avoid police and predators while finding food and surviving the cold.

"We always first try to send them home," he saud. "But a lot of times they won't go because things are really bad there. We basically become their new family."

The Times reported that at least 1.6 million kids run away from their homes -- or are kicked out -- every year. Most of them return home within a week. Government officials don't keep current counts. However, the number of runaways contacting federally-financed outreach programs rose from 550,000 to 761,000 between 2002 and 2008.

With many runaways too young to work, they resort to begging, selling drugs and prostitution, according to the National Runaway Switchboard. The federally financed 24-hour national hot line was created in 1974. Kids who need help can call 800-RUNAWAY.

Betty Snyder, 14, told The Times that financial problems made life at home with her mother unbearable.

"One month there is money, and the next month there is none," she said. "One day, she is taking it out on me, and the next day she is ignoring me. It's more stable out here."

Related: How to Talk to Kids About the Economy

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.