Saturday, October 04, 2008

ABANDONED AND HOMELESS IN AMERICA

"...there will only be one test as to whether we will go to heaven or not – namely, how we responded to the poor during our lifetime." Fr. Ronald Rolheiser)
"At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by, 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.'" - Mother Teresa
I have been praying for homeless teens and abandoned children all over America, especially in light of the news that nine children were dropped off by one father in Omaha last week. "An out-of-work widower who abandoned nine of his children at a hospital under Nebraska's new safe haven law said he was overwhelmed without his wife and just "fell apart." (Full story below.) This really cuts to the core. I have young teenagers and though they are difficult, they are fledgling human beings and need more love than ever. Love, love and more love. Pour love into your children, family, neighbors, strangers, prisoners - for we are all in this together. We must take care of each other now. It's time. - Lydia


Children at Kitezh pitching in at the collective. It is one of the few largely successful alternatives in orphan care available in Russia, and its founders hope to set an example. (Oleg Nikishin for The New York Times)

In a fairy-tale village, Russian orphans thrive
By Michael Schwirtz Published: October 2, 2008

Despite the successes, few have been able or willing to follow Kitezh's example.

"Our experience is not being put to use because it requires that adults receive a significant amount of training," said Morozov, the founder. It also requires a strict allegiance to the collective that can be at odds with Russia's new materialistic and individualistic ethos.

But the government has begun to revamp child welfare services, promoting adoption to ease the strain on orphanages.
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“This is the richest county in the richest state in the richest country in the history of the planet, yet almost 90,000 people do not have a roof over their heads. This is unacceptable.” - Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa

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OMAHA, Neb. (Sept. 26) - An out-of-work widower who abandoned nine of his children at a hospital under Nebraska's new safe haven law said he was overwhelmed without his wife and just "fell apart." ''I hope they know I love them," Gary Staton told KETV. "I hope their future is better without me around them."

The unique law allows caregivers to abandon babies and teenagers alike at hospitals without fear of prosecution. Staton anonymously left the five boys and four girls — ages 1 to 17 — at Creighton University Medical Center's emergency room on Wednesday night. He has a 10th child, a daughter who is 18 and was not dropped off.

A number of relatives have volunteered to take the siblings, said Kathie Osterman, a spokeswoman for the state department Health and Human Services.

Staton said his wife died early last year, shortly after delivering their youngest child. He said he quit his job because of his family responsibilities but couldn't pay rent or utilities or take care of his kids. "I was with her for 17 years, and then she was gone," he said of his late wife. "We raised them together. I didn't think I could do it alone. I fell apart. I couldn't take care of them."

Staton said he surrendered them so they would be safe.

A 2007 interview with Staton's oldest daughter in Omaha North High School's student newspaper said she shouldered some of the parenting duties at home. Despite helping to feed her siblings, check their homework and put them to bed, the teen managed to graduate a year early.

Once a child is abandoned under the safe haven law, the courts become involved. Parental rights don't end automatically, but parents who change their minds about abandonment may find it difficult to regain custody.

At least 16 children have been abandoned since the law took effect in July.
Hospitals call police when a child is left, and officers will usually place a child in protective custody.

Todd Landry, director of the division of Children and Family Services, said the safe-haven law was designed to help children who are in danger, but none of the kids who were dropped off had been in harm's way. Landry said he empathizes with parents who struggle to raise their families, but "it is the job of a parent to be a parent." He said there are resources to help them.

James Blue, president and CEO of the Lincoln-based nonprofit Cedars, which works with abused and neglected children, said he's been inundated with calls ever since the safe-haven law took effect.

He said the group gets more than 10 calls a day from struggling parents, and its temporary shelter is at its capacity of 15.

VETERANS ARE TWO TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE HOMELESSThere are currently 141,000 homeless vets, more troops than in Iraq. More than 1 million have served in the wars on terror since 9/11. Six thousand of those will become homeless. Veterans have a higher rate of homelessness, (HUD Homeless Report, Feb. 2007, www.huduser.org).

* The war in Iraq itself will produce 3,000 more homeless Vets.

Homeless Teens: Crushed, Abused, Abandoned
"I would rather be homeless," one street teen said. "It is cold and miserable on the streets, but it is better than being beaten up by parents who don't care."

Teens often live in "families" of as many as 20 adolescents, huddling under bridges, in woods, on beaches or in abandoned buildings. Most were forced to support themselves by panhandling, theft, drug sales or prostitution, reports a Stanford University study.

Fully 92 percent of those surveyed came from broken homes. Half reported family alcoholism and 40 percent reported drug abuse. In addition, 56 percent of the teens reported physical abuse and 38 percent reported sexual abuse in their families.

"There are throwaway, as well as runaway, teens among the homeless youths," the researchers said. "The parents of throwaway teens, those who were forced out, felt that the teens caused too many problems. The teens also mentioned frequent conflict with parents, lack of money or room, and teenage pregnancy and homosexuality. Most teenage homeless were not wanted nor well cared for."
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Imagine no one has said your name in years; no one has hugged you in decades, no one knows you have died. Imagine 90,000 women, children, teenagers and men living in Los Angeles alone. Imagine wintry cities like Chicago and Milwaukee at Christmastime. Imagine a school child with no home, no bed. Blessed are they that mourn...

Coming: "The Voice in the Trees"... an essay I wrote about an encounter with a homeless woman I had. I post it every so often to remind myself of what we have to be grateful for.