Fiona Charles-Richards, the Acting Director of the Family and Social Services Division, says there are several reasons why teens leave their homes and seek refuge somewhere else.
Charles-Richards was commenting on the reports of missing teenagers, which have become a regular occurrence of late, with at least three leaving home recently in the space of one week.
The Acting Director says this is a reflection of social issues, changing family dynamics, and even mental-health challenges in the adolescent population.
She says abuse also plays some role in these teens leaving home.
Charles-Richards says that adolescence has become challenging as teens try to figure out who they are, based on what they have been exposed to or experienced – which can cause some difficulty.
In most instances, she says, teenagers try to find somewhere to fit in, and this can be more dangerous for girls, who tend to experience sexual encounters with much older men.
Ashworth Azille, Principal of the Clare Hall Secondary School and former president of the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers, agrees that adolescence is challenging for many young people; but he notes that this is not new.
He says that young people have always gone through a period of confusion once they get to this stage.
As an educator and administrator, Azille says he is aware of several factors that contribute to teens leaving home.
Azille says there are other issues contributing to children running away from home, including that of neglect in cases where parents have multiple jobs; the fear of physical harm emanating from parents’ verbal threats; and instances of bullying at school, which results in teens not attending classes, coupled with the fear that their parents will be notified.