Sunday, November 01, 2009

Reflections on Throwaway Children and Teens

I was shocked, but didn't think too much of it at the time. It was a story relayed by a neighbor about a local family. Having lost a job, the father announced to his teen-age child that he could no longer care for her. She went to live with a relative, but the arrangement is tenuous. If that falls through, it's not clear where the young girl would go. It's also not clear how she would support herself given limited skills and a difficult job market.

Later I heard of yet other accounts: children who had run away from chaotic homes, teens placed in one foster home after another--all because no family members were able or willing to take them in.

My first experience with the idea of throwaway children and teens came in the early 1990s. We heard from our oldest son that economic upheaval in Russia had created a situation in which families were abandoning children to orphanages. Many of the children were healthy; quite a few were deemed unwanted (and unadoptable) because they had a mixed racial background. Left to languish without proper attachment and bonding, a great number of the older children evidenced signs of lifelong developmental disorders.

That's how we ended up going to Moscow and adopting our youngest son Macrae.

Now, right here at home, we see economic turmoil and fresh evidence of children and teens thrown away--not unlike what was seen in the early 1930s. Incredibly, about 1.6 million children each year either run away from home or are thrown out onto the streets, according to an illuminating New York Times account. All too often, those children and teens fall into the only way to support themselves that presents itself: prostitution. That, in turn, is accompanied by drug use and physical abuse.

I'm pleased to see that Dawn Schiller will be coming out with a book that details her story of physical and drug abuse as a throwaway teen. We hear about the suffering of teens and children in far-off lands that struggle with hunger and violence, but we don't think of such suffering in our own communities. And yet, there it is. My own area, which is reasonably affluent, has quite a few shelters for homeless children and teens.

Just as we did in the early 90's, Margie and I will find ways to get involved in helping those who are struggling to help themselves. I see those who live comfortably and whose concerns end with their own material desires; I hope that I will always avoid that deeper form of poverty. It's one of life's great paradoxes that, as we give more of ourselves, we find more and more of ourselves worth sharing. Thanks to Dawn, the folks at ChildServ, and the many others who are making the effort to pick up what's been thrown away.


dgoverde said...

Thanks for the inspiring thoughts, Doc. By the way, have you seen this? ... one of my associates emailed it to me yesterday. I think it's worth sharing. Keep up the good work.


David said...

Watching CBS' Sunday Morning show today there was a story entitled PRECIOUS about a young girl in the same situation you are describing here. There is a book (on the best sellers list) and a new movie coming out that chronicles this young girl's life and the perils of abused, abandoned, and runaway children. -CHT

Jorge said...

Dr. Steenbarger,

Yes, it's a shame. My girlfriend back in college found herself in the street (in Spain) after her father didn't pay the rent and took from her drawers, under the sweaters, the money that SHE had made and save for her college tuition.

Fortunately, apart from having a very nice boyfriend indeed (ahem, just kidding), she was lucky enough to live in what I guess you would call a socialist state, with universal health care, federally funded compulsory education (which means you get basically the same educational opportunities regardless of whether your parents can afford to live in a nice neighborhood) and nearly free college education. Thanks to that safety net she was able to get back on her feet and today she is a fine teacher loved by her students, not somebody's b#@ch.

I'm all for self-reliance and individualism, but for a fight to be fair you have to give people a chance to get on their feet first. It really is a shame that the richest country on Earth does not afford that chance to so many of its young people. After all, Howard Roark didn't have to sell his body in the streets to finish High-School.

Best trading,


PS: Probably that kid's best chance - poor as it may be - is to join the Army (again... well... I'd better drop it here, I don't want to offend anyone)

Matthew C. said...

Most of your blog posts convey over time your expertise as a great trader and teacher. This one conveys your great humanity.

RAW said...

My hat is off to you. These things are most important. When it gets right down to it, all we have is each other. I know many people, some of limited means themselves, that regularly give as much as 10 percent or more to help others at home and abroad. What goes around comes around. Thank Dr. Brett.

T. said...

Hi Brett,

I sent you an email re the girl in this post. I know you receive hundreds of emails, so I wanted to specifically ask for your attention (I sent it from a different email, but the subject is the title of this post). We're willing to help.


ShiftCTRL said...

You're a real inspiration. I flew out to Chicago to attend your seminar and must say it was nice to see you were just as humble in person as you appear to be through the blog. Great work, I wish you much success and happiness.

IDkit aka Ana said...


Thank you for bringing this to your readers' attention, especially me.

I have written a post today which has been pulled to my pages like:

and with reference back to Traderfeed, which will show the plights of such unwanted teens!

Life is not just about material success but how we can make a difference somewhere somehow.

Andrés Cardenal said...

It´s unbelievable how life has become an economic merchandise nowadays.

I live in Argentina and I can tell you how the situation here has become absolutely critical.

You learn every day about murders committed by pre-teens or even kids.

Just today a bunch of 15 year olds shot a famous football (you call it soccer) player.

And that is an every day situation in Argentina and many third world countries.

I´m talking about young kids with no chance of education, no future and no family.

It´s just murder and heavy drugs for them, they never get a chance to decide about their future.

I think we all as a society need to stand up and try to make a difference. We can´t accept this as a regular fact of life.

Great post, and congratulations for you attitude.

Maria said...

This is my first visit to your blog. Dawn is a very special young woman and very dear to me. I just posted about our relationship. She is the ultimate survivor and the way she gives back to help teenagers and abused women leaves me in awe.