Children: The Future

Posted: September 6, 2007 in Children, Homelessness, Morality

Anyone who has ever watched them playing knows that children have a natural exuberance. There is about them a liveliness that seems to defy adult understanding. And, trying to curb all of that natural and seemingly endless energy is like trying to divert the Colorado River with a spoon – it’s just not going to happen. The best you can hope to do is channel all of that energy in some positive and productive manner.  

Life for America’s 1.5 million homeless children however, is beset with certain types of stresses that non-homeless children do not have – stresses that most often time will cause traumas that can have deleterious effects that reach well into their adult lives.

According to a booklet that has been published by the National Center on Family Homelessness, entitled "Understanding Traumatic Stress in Children," there are two types of traumas that children can experience: Acute Traumatic Stress and Complex Trauma. Both have a severe impact on a child’s well being and development.

On page 7 of the booklet, it lists the effects of trauma on children in four areas of their young lives: physical, emotional, academic and relational. It also goes on to say that a one time exposure to trauma produces different responses than a trauma that is prolonged over a period of time. Trauma that is prolonged results in a longer healing process.

Despite a child’s natural resiliency, based on what I’ve been able to glean from the booklet, children who are exposed to prolonged traumas are at greater risk because…

"Complex trauma profoundly impacts children’s physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development. It impairs their ability to feel safe in the world and to develop sustaining relationships."

Based on my personal experience and interaction with children that I know who are either, presently homeless or have been homeless, I can tell you that these children are indeed scarred. Sadly, there is something less childlike about them. There is a loss of that wonderful naiveté. They have been forced to grow up faster than they should have.

Having been thrust into a lifestyle that most people erroneously believe is filled with nothing but derelicts, drunks and vagabonds, these children face a bleak future. As they are forced to interact with adults, these children seem to lose some of the ability to interact with those of their own age groups.

Although it’s easy for us as a society to assign blame on the parents for the homelessness of these children, it is still nonetheless, our responsibility as a community to do whatever is necessary to help them. It’s going to take more action than the simple pointing of accusing fingers. It’s going to take reaching down into our very hearts and souls, casting aside our prejudices and unlocking our capacity for compassion.

Until we do, not only is the future for these children uncertain, but our future as a community – as a nation – equally as uncertain.

Perhaps it’s time we focus on the reality that the children of today are the adults of tomorrow.

Don’t we owe it to ourselves to insure the best future possible?

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