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A friend recently told me that her niece (10 years old) had run away from home. Her niece was angry with her mother for demanding that she complete a task or they would not go to a show. The child’s mother stepped out for a few minutes to run an errand, and when she returned, her daughter was not at home. After looking around the apartment and noting what belongings of her daughter were missing, my friend’s sister surmised that her daughter had left home with the intention of being away from home for some time. The mother called the police.

“Now you feel like the whole world’s pickin’ on you

But deep down inside you know it ain’t true

You’ve been punished

‘Cause your mother wants to raise you the right way, Yeah

But you don’t care ’cause you already made up your mind

You wanna run away, yeah

You’re on your way

Runaway child, running wild

Runaway child, running wild

Better come back home

Better come back home where you belong

Where you belong …” (lyrics from “Runaway Child,” sung by The Temptations)

That evening two women saw my friend’s niece near the Lakefront, alone, and were concerned enough to call the police. The police came, picked up my friend’s niece and took her home. Thanks to the concern of these two women, this story about a runaway child had a good ending.

There are lots of reasons why kids run away from home. Some certainly leave home to escape abuse, but in the above case, my friend’s niece has been allowed to get what she wants or make everyone miserable if she doesn’t. Her mother is now suffering the consequences because her child is finding other ways to coerce her into letting her have her way. Sadly, my friend’s sister will have to cope with the threat of her daughter’s running away again.

Statistics: “One in seven kids between the ages of 10 and 18 runs away at some point and there are 1 to 3 million runaway and homeless kids living on the streets in the United States.”

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...