Failing and Abusing Children – by Micki Peluso

The problem lies mostly with the boys, but girls, too, are aggressive, prone to bad language and general destructive behavior. Bullying smaller children, fighting among themselves and surliness toward adults is common to both sexes.Yet to all appearances, these children seem normal. Some are deceptively lovable, polite and well-mannered. They smile easily and give the appearance of friendly, gregarious young children of ages from eight to twelve-years-old. Whatever their outward aspect, they are also emotionally distraught, street savvy, proficient liars, thieves and con artists.

Some are hyperactive, and/or suffering developmental learning disorders, some, victims of FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome). They are precocious, yet manipulative, unable to control their fierce physical and emotional outbursts; having no sense of morality and needing years of counseling and support, they often display a look of mental instability. More likely, they are attempting to lock out the hurtful world in which they live, distancing themselves from emotional trauma beyond their understanding.

Some of these children live in prestigious neighborhoods, some in small, crowded apartments with dysfunctional, sometimes violent alcoholic parents, who, when drunk, do not have the nurturing instincts of an alley cat. When sober, they have no concept of how to raise defiant children who will not obey them, because they have forfeited their children’s respect.

The family unit of today’s children is often reduced to one parent, working parents or substitute grandparents. Some have terrible home lives, others live in pleasant homes with supposedly good parents who are unaware of the problems of their offspring.

Neighbors repeatedly call police when children attack each other in community parks with screw drivers and pocket knives. One community prevailed upon the police for protection against children between the ages of twelve to fifteen-years- old, who were attacking and assaulting adults in broad daylight within the confines of the neighborhood shopping mall. The police complied for a few weeks, then because the attacks stopped, so did the patrols. Often, the children confine their stealing and attacks to the parks, where the police refuse to enter, except in an emergency. Younger children are easy targets, because they have no other recourse to their homes from school, except through the park.

Besides attacks and vandalism, the police are often called by worried neighbors to intervene when children are verbally and physically abused by obviously inebriated, out-of-control parents. The police arrive in their own good time, file a report, tell the children “to listen to their mother/father” and leave. To them it is just another case of domestic violence.

The Child Abuse Hotline keeps neighbors on hold for so long that they eventually give up. The message on the Hotline number says, “press one if the child is dead, otherwise, please hold.”

A pastor, who had been taking an alcoholic parent to AA meetings counseled the neighbors to put their own children first. He basically felt that nothing could be done for either the parent, due to repeated relapses or the troubled children and that the ongoing emotional toll on the neighborhood would be both overwhelming and pointless. His words, sounding callous, proved true . Has it come to this? That troubled children cry out for help and no one can save them? The only option in serious abuse cases is to send the children to a shelter to await foster care. But many of these children are more frightened of being placed in foster homes where they have previously suffered physical and emotional abuse than of their parents.

Troubled children roam the neighborhood parks and streets with time on their hands and no direction in their lives. They are bored and angry and demonstrate their frustration through violence. Drunken parents barely remember to feed them. Working parents order pizza which they eat in front of the TV, instead of the family table. Rich parents buy their children everything they want in an effort to keep them busy. When unsupervised, children from all types of families are in constant trouble, ranging from mild to serious. Sadly, these families are not unique, but rather a refection of a diseased society.

Sometimes dysfunctional families, particularly the poor and single parent families, make a valiant effort to obtain help. The system thwarts their efforts with long waits for medical care and poor service at clinics. They are often treated with condescension and made to feel like non-persons. If the system continues to fail those it was designed to help, we will become a nation of violent, emotionally disturbed children, whose numbers are legion, and whose future is bleak, both for them and for a societal structure that allows dysfunctional situations to escalate and them complains about the repercussions unleashed upon its citizens.

Children not oppressed by alcohol or drug addicted parents are suffering nonetheless through neglect and lack of structure in their lives. Dual breadwinners are left with little time for interaction with their children. The children flounder, feeling the loss of the tremendous amount of attention needed to successfully raise even one child. Children require an incredible amount of one-on-one time and even then a positive outcome is never a sure thing. There are still genes and peer pressure to deal with. It doesn’t help that today’s children, while not causing waves in academic achievement, are far more intelligent at an earlier age than those of past generations. Television and modern technology can take some credit for this and it is a two-sided coin. The brilliant troubled child is the most dangerous because he/she is still emotionally his/her given age, sometimes less, and emotional depravation may be the root of the problem.

Meanwhile, potentially good children cry out to a society that feigns deafness. No one cares to ease their pain. It’s not their problem. Not yet. The social system that allows atrocities like the ones burdening these innately innocent children is responsible for the havoc that these children will wreak upon their communities as teenagers and young adults. They will most likely steal, become substance abusers, commit assault or even murder. Society hears them then-loud and clear. Today’s children are often criminals by the tender age of eight-years-old. They are both capable and inclined to inflict harm upon themselves and others. During their short lives they have seen and experienced intolerable abuse. They have killed and been killed. Generated by the many faces of neglect, these young perpetrators express their confusion and pain through violence. They hurt animals, vandalize for kicks and show no respect for people or property. They have needs, which for whatever reasons are not being met. Something essential is lacking in their lives. What have the family and community done or failed to do to cause such aberrant behavior?

Child abuse has only been brought to national scrutiny during the last twenty years. Strangely, in recent years, the abused children , so long a dark, hidden secret, has been brought to light in a bizarre manner. The children seem to be avenging themselves, a terrifying prospect with awesome results. Abused children, once only to be pitied, seem to be exacting a revenge that will destroy both themselves and those that they avenge. School shootings bear witness to this.

Whatever the cause of this national virus afflicting our children-working parents, latch-key environments, alcoholic or abnormal home lives, indifferent school systems, TV violence, and inept law enforcement and social services, the time is long past for resolution. These children are the upcoming generation which will shape the destiny of the nation. This is not to imply that all children are doomed to the ills of society because their family life is less than perfect. A good percentage of children, even those raised in alcoholic and abusive homes, as well as those raised by single, working or divorced parents, survive these ills, perform well in school and go on to become responsible adults. But the number of those children that can’t seem to function in today’s society is large enough to be a major concern.

These children, so young, if not helped may become the teenagers that today drive through their communities randomly shooting and killing for the thrill of it. Will those that survive to adulthood and manage to avoid prison, join militant organizations which strive to destroy the fabric of a society once based upon the stability of the family? Never before, in the history of this nation have we faced a problem as severe as the unknown malignancy which is causing children to run amok with criminal activity. Somewhere society has failed and has yet to discover why. The system simply doesn’t work. Solutions must be found promptly, followed by swift action or the future of this nation may be undermined by anarchy. The disturbed, violent children of neighborhoods throughout the nation must be saved while young enough to rehabilitate. If not, their internal rage will be directed at a impassive society that fully deserves it.

Micki Peluso

I began writing after a personal tragedy, as a catharsis for my grief. This lead to a first time out publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25 year career in Journalism. I've freelanced and been staff writer for one major newspaper and written for two more. I have published short fiction and non-fiction, as well as slice of life stories in college and other magazines and in e-zine editions. My first book was published in 2008; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . . AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG. I am presently working on a collection of short fiction, slice of life stories and essays, in a book called, Heartbeat . . . Slices of Life.