Focusing on the safety and protection on children, this episode of The Spark features COMEC’s Executive Director Sgt. Len Edwards as well as board vice president Patti Phelps of Phelps Security.
We see children daily for a host of reasons. These children are suspected of using illicit substances, have behavioral problems, anger issues, gang affiliation and others problems.
However, to me, there is nothing that bothers me more than children who feel (for whatever reason) that they don’t belong. Sometimes the result is that they have disconnected from their faith, family and education. Sometimes kids, usually in their teens become defiant and want to take control of their own decision making. We often say that these teens want the independence of an adult but the responsibility of a child.
“Tommy” sat in my office and told me that he was tired of being told what to do. He said he had no freedom, and that his mother was trying to tell him who he could be friends with. He was being told where he could go, when he had to be home and he hated the authority exerted by school.
He (barely 16 years old) thought that his single mom just used him as a babysitter for his younger siblings while his she worked. He was using tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, and oftentimes left his younger siblings at alone while his mother was at work. Mom was infuriated! “If he can’t do what I tell him to do then he can just- get out! If he is not going to help me then what use is he to me or the family?”
Candy was a defiant, angry little girl of 14 that was brought our office because she was frequently running away from home. Candy was about 4’11 and weighed about 85 pounds. She literally thought, and behaved like, she was an adult. Her mom and dad divorced, and each had engaged in new relationships, and each had brought additional children into the homes from previous relationships.
Candy was wearing a spaghetti strapped mid-drift black shirt that said, “Budding Bitch” on it. Candy was wearing heavy make-up, had long fingernails and obviously was trying to look twenty years old. The child’s mother stated to me that she would not go to school, and that if she did she usually left at lunch time to “hook-up” with her older friends who had cars. The mom asked me if I knew of a “boot camp” where she could send her to teach her a lesson… or even better a military school.
Parenting 101 She did not just start dressing like this today. Who is the parent, who is the child? Who buys her clothes? Why does she want to appear to be so much older than what she is? Could it be that she wants out and realizes that an adult relationship is the train out of town?
We have children brought in office daily by parents for a host of reasons. Their children are thought to be using illicit substances, behavioral problems, anger issues, gang affiliation and others. To me, there is nothing that bothers me more than children who feel (for whatever reason) that they don’t belong.
Sometimes the result is that they have disconnected from their faith, family and education. Sometimes children, usually in their teens, become defiant and want to take control of their own decision making. I often say that these teens want the independence of an adult, but the responsibility of a child.
Tommy sat in my office and told me that he was tired of being told what to do. He said he had no freedom, and that his mother was trying to tell him who he could be friends with. He was being told where he could go, when he had to be home, and who he could be with, and he hated the authority exerted by school.
Tommy just turned 16 years old, and thought that his single mom just used him as a babysitter for his younger siblings while his mother worked. Tommy was using tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, and oftentimes left his younger siblings at home or alone while his mother was at work. Mom was infuriated, “if he can’t do what I tell him to do then he can just- get out! If he is not going to help me, then what use is he to me or the family?”
A throwaway child is a child who no longer recognizes or accepts parental control and through frustration, that parent simply tells the child to leave home with the “clothes on his/her back. Oftentimes, these children do not have the street-survival skills to make it on their own and become ripe for exploitation by older and more sophisticated street people.
Parenting 101 He is not your spouse nor the father of your other children. He needs to be in school, involved with positive and constructive activities, and you need to create some quality time with him alone, and let him know how much he is loved.
Parents recently came into the office with their 17 year old son who has become increasingly more aggressive toward his family, and had been suspected of using drugs. The young man’s new friends consisted of drop-outs, thugs and dopers. The family could not understand what was going on and why their once honor roll student and school athelete was going in this direction.We offered free drug screening service and once the results were in (they were negative), the family returned in for an interview.
The mother and father came to the office with the child and I spoke child alone. I asked what was happening to rock his world. He stated that his mom and dad were fighting terribly about money, as his father had been laid off. The son thought that his parents were going to get divorced, and that he did not think it was fair for all of the anger to spill over to the rest of the family, and that he was escaping the stress by leaving.
I then brought the parents in alone and spoke to them together regarding their son’s concerns about a pending divorce. They were shocked! Together, the parents stated that a divorce was not even a consideration – it had not even been discussed. They agreed that things had become very stressful at home but thought that their discussion of the problems in front of the kids probably was not appropriate.
Next I brought all of them together and had the parents reassure the child that their home was intact – that they loved him, and eachother, but was just not used to having money problems. Mom cried, dad cried, kid cried (I almost did too!) Family hug and kid promised to straighten out now that he was not threatened by the divorce issue.
One month later, Mom comes back to the office with her son, drops off a generous donation and says, “you know? It’s all about communication, and we needed COMEC to come in and help us better communicate with eachother and know that our strength as a family was the most important thing of all.”
Len – it would be great for you to add some kind of observation here. Maybe something like: “Children are watching their parents, often when the parents are unaware. Kids often make conclusions, while not valid, are very real to them. Remember to talk to your kids. Ask them questions – be involved in their life. Let them know what you’re thinking too.
At the Commission on Missing and Exploited Children (COMEC) it is all about children and the issues that affect them. Today’s world is filled with challenges for families.
Some familiar such as truancy and others like Internet safety that are new territory for everyone. For over 23 years COMEC has identified and instituted programs that help children and those who are charged with their care. Promoting the safety and protection of all children and connecting families is what our organization is all about.
Children who run away, children who are taken, children who are kicked out of their homes, or simply a child or parent who need help in facing the many obstacles that challenge them. We are here to support them and you.
Should you need guidance, direction, encouragement or technical assistance in bringing your child home. COMEC is the Mid-South’s resource for keeping our children safe.
COMEC is the ONLY non-profit missing children’s organization in Tennessee (501c3 status). We administer the region’s AMBER Alert. We are a small group with the huge task of implementing and administering programs designed to protect the children of the Mid-South from predators of all kinds, those they might encounter in public and on the internet. We search for missing children. We provide child identification cards, fingerprinting kits, in-home drug testing kits, counseling and Internet safety seminars.