The Loneliest Children
It's not an easy ride being a parent. Kids are tricky, strong-minded little individuals. At least, mine were.
But you take your cue from your own normal family background and instinctively provide love and care, security and opportunities as best you can.
Which is why the worst social problem I can think of is the one of neglected, un-parented children who are going on to become un-parents themselves; a downward spiral of neglect, hopelessness and violence.
It's a problem which is creating a burgeoning under-class with no money, no stability, no security, no morals, no leadership, no chance whatsoever.
These are the loneliest children. They are growing up with no functioning parents, being abused and neglected. Never mind that they lack education, these kids lack basic life skills.
The only way for them is violence and crime. It bothers me because I'm a mother and I feel for these kids. It bothers me because these kids become teenagers and adults who make the streets unsafe. It bothers me too because politicians and policy-makers aren't making greater efforts to tackle the problem.
It's not good enough leaving it to cash-strapped and hopeless social workers, to psychologists and teachers who depend on the kids having someone to care enough to take them to school or appointments. These kids have no-one.
But there is at least one charity doing it's bit to help. Called Kids Company, it was started by Camila Batmanghelidjh, a psychotherapist. It's supporting unparented kids who are out there living on the streets, neglected and poverty-stricken. It's getting them into education again, trying to equip them for life.
The only reason I know about it is because she spoke at a conference I attended last week.
The stories she told were profoundly upsetting. The kind of thing I'd imagined but much worse. A seven year old girl who wanted to kill herself and attempted to do so several times. A four year old who saw his mother's head cracked open with a machete, an 11 year old who was prostituted to fund her parents' drug habit.
The children initially beg and plead for the abuse and neglect to stop. When they realize their voices and tears make no difference, they shut down and internalize everything, in a kind of survival mode, believing that they don't matter any more to anyone.
The fright hormone ensures that the terrifying images are lodged in their memories forever. They “bank” the horror. No one steps in to prevent the cycle of abuse so there is a catastrophic impact on them. They believe human life isn't worth cherishing.Continued on the next page