'Walkaways' may be a better term than 'runaways' for some area teens.
By ROSA MERCADO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two teenage girls are sprawled out on the floor watching TV on a hot and humid summer afternoon in which the two best options are either staying inside or going swimming.
Twelve-year-old Renee of Youngstown and 15-year-old Tracy of Boardman share a common bond despite their age difference. Both teens are what some are calling teen "walkaways."
The term is used to describe teens who temporarily leave home and stay at friends' houses for weeks or months.
They'll go back
Unlike the stereotype of a runaway, these young people are likely to go back home, often in a matter of days.
Seventh-grader Renee was a bit more headstrong. She stayed at a friend's house for a month before returning home to her adoptive mother and twin sister.
"Me and my mom don't get along, and me and my sister fight a lot," Renee said. "If I got mad at my mom, or something happened between me and my sister, I'd just leave and go stay with my friends."
At Daybreak, a shelter for runaways and homeless teens in Youngstown, Director Daniel Horne said that in the vast majority of runaway cases, the teens stay with friends or relatives, and most do go home eventually. Both Renee and Tracy are calling Daybreak home for now.
Renee said that when she returned home from her monthlong flight, things never got any better. "All my mom does is call the cops," she said. "She doesn't try to talk to me about it -- she doesn't try to work it out. All she does is go, 'OK, I'm calling the cops.'"
Staying with people she knows is preferable to the 12-year-old, and at this point she does not want to return home. "I don't think my mom cares that I'm here," Renee said.
Tenth-grader Tracy shares similar circumstances. She once stayed for two weeks at a friend's house. "Me and my mom don't really get along," she said. "We would always get in fights about things I do, like where I go and when I come home."
Tracy said her father wouldn't do anything about the problems between her and her mom. "He just sits back and laughs when me and my mom get in fights -- he thinks we're funny."
The 15-year-old believes that if she returns home it will get worse.
The National Runaway Switchboard, a nonprofit organization providing crisis intervention through national and local telephone switchboards, reports that though a teen's reason for leaving is unique to each individual, family problems are the primary cause.
The NRS handles more than 100,000 calls a year, the majority of which are from teen runaways and teens in crisis.
It reports that in most cases, these teens are away from home from one to three days.
Last year, the agency received 2,872 calls in Ohio and 4,187 calls in Pennsylvania.
Despite their traumatic pasts, both Renee and Tracy have high hopes for the future. They both want to be lawyers one day. Renee's problems with her mother have made her determined to be a different kind of mother some day. "I hope I don't do that to my kids," she said.