A lawsuit was filed against a Des Moines, Iowa youth shelter by the parents of an 11-year-old girl. The girl was raped by a 17-year-old boy who was a resident of the shelter which raises questions about what precautions agencies need to take to protect children who may be angry and rebellious from other children who will exploit those emotions by acting like a trustable ally until an especially vulnerable moment.
One of the issues seems to be the mixing of troubled children who are nearly adults with much younger children. When the rapist is reported to have a history of sexual abuse that mix in ages becomes a much more dangerous mix.
On her first day at the shelter, the girl left with the boy who would later rape her and another 17-year-old boy which I believe should have led to an Amber alert. It doesn't matter if the girl left eagerly or if she left reluctantly, she was still an 11-year-old child.
What seems to happen many times with children who are troubled is these children get labeled as trouble. This label contains the incorrect assumption that these children are not vulnerable when they are often at their most vulnerable.
Even 17-year-old boys have their vulnerabilities. We need to find compassionate and respectful ways to deal with those while requiring a high standard of responsible behavior.
We also need to support environments where it is easier and more attractive for these children to make the right choices and harder for them to make the wrong ones. In many cases this means that the organizations need more money for training, staff and facilities. Being stretched thin in human resources and financial resources can lead to huge problems in otherwise great organizations.
If the exploiters can learn how get a child's cooperation then those who truly want what is best for children need to learn how to use many of these same skills while retaining proper boundaries and respect for all involved.
Those of us who don't work directly with children can support what works in many ways. Too often we forget to be vocal when we want an effort or agency to continue or expand.