Screen Shot 2017 08 22 at 10.52.24 AMSpecial Contribution

Shana Burgess

Common reasons why youth become homeless are problems within the home. My last article was about youth homes not being supportive and how it can cause youth homelessness. This article is part two of a three-part series which focuses on the home not being safe.

Homelessness is experienced by many youth and young adults in King County. According to the 2015 Count Us In survey, 824 young people were identified as homeless, with 16% unsheltered. Problems within the home consist of abuse, neglect and drugs which are all contributing factors to youth homelessness.

First, living in a home where there is abuse doesn’t allow our youth and young adults to feel safe and be safe. Abuse has many forms, and typically falls into the verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse categories.

Growing up in kinship care, I was degraded in front of family and friends and physically abused by adults in the household. This eventually forced me to believe that I had no choice except to leave and not return until I was found and forced back into my home. “The most common endangerment component of runaway and expelled youth is physical or sexual abuse at home in the year prior to the episode.” 1

Second, neglect is the most common form of maltreatment experienced by youth. Protecting the child and improving their wellbeing should be the goal when addressing neglect. Youth have been asked to leave the home and/or pushed out the home for various reasons. Five categories of neglect are: inadequate supervision, environmental safety hazards, emotional, educational and exposure to drugs. For instance, I was born with drugs in my system which led to my abandonment by my biological mother and I had to fend for myself the best way I knew how. According to, “41% of youth who have run away have been abandoned by their parents for at least 24 hours prior to leaving the home.” 2

Third, drug production in the home is an environmental hazard that many homeless youth have experienced. In-home labs are not a safe place for youth or young adults to be. Growing up, drugs were used a lot in my home, and this led my friends and myself to look for drugs. After I was exposed to drug users/abusers, I adopted their lifestyle and became more involved with drugs. At an early age we made poor decisions based on what those in the home were doing.

Changes need to be made for our youth living in homes where these issues are occurring! Abuse, neglect, and drugs have affected my life and still affects my life today. Anyone can report abuse or neglect anonymously by calling 866 END-HARM.

If drugs are sighted or become a part of a child’s life, have a conversation with them. Don’t underestimate their knowledge of the situation; intervene with appropriate redirection. If you know a child in a home with drugs, don’t hesitate to call CPS or 866 END-HARM, especially if you’re a mandated reporter. Having a conversation with a child is a step in the right direction, but not enough when safety is at stake.

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We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.