November is Runaway Prevention Month, and we’d like to start the month by discussing GLBT youth: an underserved and under recognized group of children who become missing because they run away from, or are thrown away by their families.
GLBT youth tend to experience a greater exposure to the risk factors for runaway/thrown away situations:
- · Rejection by family
- · Rejection by peers
- · Bullying at school
- · Exposure to community violence (either first or second hand)
- · Internalized hate/rejection
- · Isolation and lack of support structure
What can we do to reduce the risk of bad outcomes for the GLBT youth in our state?
- · Promote great ideas like the Family Acceptance Project, a program that helps families have honest and authentic conversations with their GLBT children in a way that reduces the feelings of personal rejection, hostility, and isolation that can arise as families grapple with these issues.
- · Encourage our schools and community organizations to adopt responsive and sensible “zero tolerance” policies that are solution and reconciliation –oriented, that promise to address EVERY incident of bullying, record the incident, create a resolution appropriate to the situation (not one size fits all), record the resolution and commitments of all parties, and hold them accountable.
- · Model appropriate behavior for our own children in our own families, and not accept violence of any kind toward anyone. Even if a family has opinions that make them unable to accept a person’s sexual orientation, they can model respectful behavior toward all people, and let their children know that they expect the same level of behavior.
- · Contribute our time, energy and money to organizations that work to reduce community violence and promote personal and community safety. Missing Children Minnesota provides a runaway prevention program for all children called Erica’s Choices.
- · Contribute our time, energy, and money to groups that provide support and advocacy for GLBT youth. Groups such as PFLAG and District 202 are good local groups that help support our young people.