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Heavy burden on today’s parents

In these snapshots of life on the streets, CAMILLE CLARKE talked to children and adults, onlookers and experts, about child casualties of parental neglect and abuse. Sometimes, she heard, a parent does his or her best—but something goes terribly wrong.
Published: 
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
A motorist and prospective client draws the attention of the women working at the corner of Cornelio and Roberts streets in Woodbrook. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

Despite love, nurturing and discipline, some parents have spent nights crying over their children. It’s a parent’s nightmare when you don’t know where your children are—only to learn that they have run away from home, are living on the streets and could end up dead. A San Juan mother (who refused to be named) said she disciplined her child, but her daughter ran away from home and fell into bad company. Problems escalated and her daughter began to live on the streets and became involved with members of the underworld. Her daughter met a man who was involved in kidnapping and he had her watching their prospective victims.

The mother of four, however, said she often disciplined her by using corporal punishment, at times with a cable, and this she believes may have prompted the child to flee her home. “I was very disappointed, I was totally disappointed. My daughter could have end up dead. She could have dealt with it in a different manner. She was exposing her body and she was exposed to child molesters.” The mother said before that, she had kept her daughter at home to watch her younger sibling, and this, she admitted, was the cause of the problem. “I used to leave her home to help me out and it took a toll on her. She had the responsibility of helping me out and she used to run away. You need to pray about it,” she said. “She started running away when she was 15. I even beat her with a cable cord and then she was on the streets. She was with a man who was kidnapping people in Chaguanas.”

She now feels she should use different methods to punish her children if any problems arise. “I would take away what they like the most, or let them do chores or do well in schoolwork and see their reports, not beat them now. It ain’t make no sense now, they more into technology—like phones. That is my discipline,” she said. Since her runaway phase, her daughter’s life has turned around. The mother said at that time she did not know her daughter had a mental problem, which was diagnosed only after she was taken into custody and the men she had been involved with were arrested. “We resolved the problem and now she is studying in a medicinal field and we are the best of friends.” Her advice was that parents should talk to their children and have a relationship where there is open communication. “I would tell them to talk to them and find out what is going on. They could be going through something you don’t know about. I went through it—I would know,” she said. 

 

 

Single father’s fight

“Single fathers have it harder than single mothers,” says a Port-of-Spain father whose daughter ran away from home at an early age. The father of four said he faced a similar problem with his daughter. The breadwinner of the family, he was separated from his common-law wife, who was living with another man, and had to accept the responsibility of raising his children. Another one of his major challenges was living in a “hot spot” where his children were surrounded by people involved in criminal activity. “I used to tell their mother that the things you doing will come back and haunt you. I had to keep them (the children) focusing on being somebody good. We living in an area where crime is high and drugs around you when you sleep, drugs around you when you waking up and you smelling it,” he said. When one of his daughters, who he said was the apple of his eye, turned 14, she began to give him trouble. “She started to run away and take man. I was worried and calling friends and making report in station.”