Day 52: 15 January – How Far is Far Enough?

Ok, with this post i would like to get some real conversation going. I want feedback and input from anybody and everybody, but most especially from parents! I sat in, what i felt was, a very productive meeting today with a couple of the key role players in the “street children” sector. To be exact, we sat and talked for almost five hours. Majority of our conversation, and the reason for our meeting was to talk about a small hand full of kids in town that are considered “hardened street kids”. These are children that have pretty much been in and out of every facility, addicted to heavy drugs, totally sucked into street life, and extremely out of control of their lives (because of their drug addiction). Their families know their children need help but don’t know how and feel disempowered. If you caught one of the kids in a rational moment even they themselves would admit they need help, but the addiction has a stronger hold on their lives than ration, reason, programs, family or any other outside force.

So one of the big questions today was “what do we do with these kids?”. It is a small, workable group. But we know that whatever is done will have to be extreme, holistic, and most probably not optional. You see, these children have been allowed to make the choice to go and live on the streets, use heavy drugs, and partake in this destructive behaviour. They were not mature enough to make that decision in the first place, so we can equally not expect them to be mature enough to make the decision to leave this destructive cycle while they are still alive, especially considering the power an addiction can have (specifically crack cocaine) over a grown adult, much less a child! At what point do we as adults intervene, whether the child likes it or not, whether he or she is happy with us or not, for his or her own good. I know my mom would have gone to drastic measures to insure my safety and health, and though i may have been irritated with certain punishments or consequences from my actions, i know that she acted in love and looking back i appreciate it.

So now let’s just put the case of these children aside for a second. i want you to get really personal with this. I want you to imagine that YOUR kids (let’s just say ages anywhere from 12-17) are in this position (if you don’t have kids you will have to take it a step further and imagine you have kids); they are addicted to crack cocaine, their drug addiction has taken them to the streets, grown adults give them money to feed their habits, grown adults sell them the drugs, sometimes grown adults smoke the drugs with them, your child often sells his or her body to get money for the drugs to wrinkly, old men, your child is totally spiralling out of control in a self destructive manner and you are literally watching him or her come closer to death with every day that passes by. Ok, got the mental picture? Now here is where i want your input…

1) Would you care?

2) If so, what extent would you go to to see your child get help?

3) If your child resisted all forms of “help”, knowing that he or she is a minor, would you go to the extent of forcing him or her to go to a treatment facility/healing program against his or her will?

4) How would you feel about the “grown adults” in your child’s life that are enabling his or her addiction? and

5) what would you suggest doing with them?

I would really appreciate your feedback!!

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21 Responses to Day 52: 15 January – How Far is Far Enough?

  1. mama d says:

    1- of course! My heart would be absolutely broken. 2- as a mother I would go to any extent I could to do whatever I could to help any of my boys if they ever found themselves in the situation your describing. 3- Absolutely. I would drag them kicking and screaming. I know I didn’t feel like a child at 12-17, but now that I’m a mother and actually an adult I see things differently. That age fits the legal definition of child or at least youth depending on where you’re at… then physiologically there is so much going on especially in brain development (reasoning, judgement, and decision making areas are still baking). Anyway, my point would be that age is definitely not an adult and that paired with their proven inability to make good life decisions would lead me to believe they aren’t ready to be in control. As adults, we should be responsible to get them to the place where they CAN make their own decisions before putting that responsibility on them. We should work to keep them alive for starters and then give them some tools (like treatment for addiction and education or life skills)to work with. Then when they have addiction free adult bodies and brains… then I think there would be hope. 4- I would be infuriated. I think there must have been something gone wrong in those adults lives for them to be messing with my kids like that, but moms get single-minded about protecting their kids, so I would mostly be angry. 5 – That is the big question, isn’t it. I’m not an expert on these issues, but I can tell you what I would wish. I would wish someone would love my kids and find a way to get through to them. I would pray for my kids and hope people would join me. I would wish someone would be strong with and for my kids. I would wish someone would keep my kids alive most of all and give them a fighting chance.

  2. Faizel Petersen says:

    1. Yes I do care.

    2. In the case of our kids in town, they’ve been messed around so much by various organizations and institutions, so I’d go to the extend of making sure the place’s programme WILL benefit my child, and make sure s/he sticks to the programme.

    3. Yes I’d give him / her no option but to enrol in the programme, as s/he cannot make proper decisions, as the ones made has resulted them to be in the situation they are in. Looking back into my teenage years, I remember that I was also quite naughty and when my dad got fed up, he just once mentioned that he can’t deal with me anymore so will enrol me into Boys Town. That was the end of my rebellious behaviour and I started towing the line. My point is that regardless whether I did or didn’t wanna go. If I didn’t wanna “improve” myself, then I would’ve been sent away. Therefore out of love, I’d force my child into any institution or facility that would really help improve my child, providing that place as a good success rate.

    4.I’d be so pissed at them, probably would wanna beat them up for not being harsher with my child and scaring him / her hard enough to run back home. I’d appreciate if they acted in a role of protecting my kid and helping them survive in an acceptable manner, but not by encouraging or forcing them to prostitute and indulge themselves with all kinda drugs.

    5. This is a very difficult one to answer. The problem is that the options are minimal for the kids we got in town. There are no programmes that can cater for kids this hardcore and the kids’s violent history would scare any ignorant person working in any facility. I can state what would be ideal, but we don’t have something like this in place, or accessible to our kids in town. Having a “retreat facility” whereby the child gets forcefully removed and taken to would be a first step. The facility should focus solely on getting the kid off the drugs she / he is addicted to. This stage the facilitators will have to be extreme is it won’t be easy. Once this is achieved, then the child moves onto more constructive programmes whereby proper counselling would be required. Many of the kids in town carries such alot of pain, suffering, built up hate and anger, and has never been able to “off load” it, enabling them to put their past behind them, and focusing on building a better life for themselves. Many people wanna “help” the kids while chasing their own agendas, which is why the kids has been caught up in the endless cycle of exploitation, where they end up master the art of manipulating people in order to survive on the streets. Back to the question, I think those kids needs a clean break.

    Some of them when you have gained their trust and get to talk to them on a rational frame of mind, they would actually agree to join any programme that would REALLY be able to help them. In my view, the idealistic “retreat” I mentioned would be an option to get established, coz the main step is getting them off the drugs. From there you can look at skills training, and actually teach them to become care givers as what Damian has become, now managing a soup kitchen, with Freda on his side. This would mean a coordinated effort, and a completely new operation, as existing programmes are limited in the group ranges they can work with, and are already “fully booked” as they would put it. Whatever comes out from the decision reached Ryan, and whatever next step you guys plan, I’d love to be part of that effort! I end off with the most important aspect, and that is to pray and ask God to guide our hearts and grant us the wisdom and knowledge that would enable us to decide what that next step would be, and to do it purely for His grace and His honour! Thanks guys

  3. Faith says:

    Addiction is never good news regardless of ages. I agree Ryan, intervention is urgently needed. How small is the group that you are talking about? Is there a place these kids can go to to get the help they need. Its not going to be easy getting them to go to such a facility but they have no option. As a parent, I would drag my kids there (kicking and screaming) as I know it is in their best interest. Please let me know how I can help. God be with you and the children.

  4. PaulCpt says:

    Would I care? It is so simple to say yes, heartbreakingly so and in truth all would, if it was their own child. The question should be are we prepared to take responsibility for our children? In the Uk for instance parents look to the state to take responsibility for all aspects of their children’s education, behaviour, development and care. If a child goes wrong, it is up to the state to sort it out or not, parents have abdicated their responsibility to others.

    Parenting a child is not an easy thing, it is a constant challenge of putting your own needs second and your child first, of being able to take the hard decisions in your childs best interest rather than going the easy route. I learnt this the hard way with my autistic child, I could have left it up to the experts but decided to take responsibility for him and to do what it takes to help him get the best chance in life. It was a heartbreaking process, which meant putting my life on hold, my career, my interests, my money all went into him. Teaching an autistic child boundaries is so hard, they just don’t get it and sometimes you really have to go to extreems to get the message through. Once I threatened that if he misbehaved again he would not get Easter eggs on Easter sunday, of course he continued his unacceptable behaviour and I had to experience him watching all the kids hunt for easter eggs. No parent should have to go through that. But it worked.

    On the other hand parenting responsibility is also about being prepared to give at the most inappropriate time, putting them first, just this week I was late for a meeting but my child was having a complete fit because of a fight with his brothers and friends in the pool. I had to forget about work pressure and take the time, a lot of time, to talk him through it, explaining that it was just a game with no expectation that he would get it, incredibly this time he did and the next day all the other kids were so happy that for the first time they had spent the whole day playing without one fight. Having a child, caring for that child, is about taking responsibility for the child, for putting them first, its about being prepared to parent the child.

    The next question for me is should we care for all children as we do our own? Yes we should, for many reasons but mostly because it is what makes us human, what allows us to love unconditionally and to experience a glimpse of the perfect society. Children give us this opportunity, street children more so.

    Yes I am prepared to do whatever it takes, even by force, to do what is best interests for my child, for any child, along with this however comes the responsibility of taking the child through it, of being there for them, of parenting them, of putting them first, of putting our own agendas second.

  5. kiwimeg says:

    1. Not only would I care, it would break my heart. My girls are both pre-schoolers still, I look at them with so much promise for the future and I can’t imagine how heartbroken I would be to see them throwing their lives away.

    2. If it were my kids I would fight tooth and nail to make sure they NEVER got into this situation. But if despite my best efforts they did end up on the streets, I would do ANYTHING/EVERYTHING possible to get them out.

    3. I am well aware that they may resist and probably hate me at the time, but to be honest, they are minors. They have made some bad decisions that got them to this point and are obviously not capable of making the decisions to get out of the situation. As far as I am concerned, they wouldn’t have a choice and they wouldn’t have a say.

    They are my kids, and I am responsible for them until they reach adulthood. If I have to make hard/unpleasant decisions to ensure their wellbeing then I will. That’s what you sign up for when you become a parent!

    4. As for the grown adults enabling these kids behaviour/addiction. They are being criminally irresponsible. There should be some kind of consequences for their actions.

    5. The parent in me would have the consequences be as dire as possible. But, I would be guessing that the adults doing this are obviously in need of some sort of help themselves – perhaps they need to be offered the choice of dire consequences or assistance for their issues?

    My heart goes out to these kids (and their families) that you are trying to help. I wish you every success in your efforts.

  6. Claire says:

    Far enough – is taking these kids off the streets.

    I was once hugely helped by my sister when she called an ambulance and had me sent to and held forceably by law in a hospital mental ward, as I was ill and needed care.

    I was a danger to myself and a danger to society (or could have been any minute, who knows).

    The reality is these very special children are being done a disservice by being allowed to choose their own destruction.Are we giving up too soon and not going for radical enough measures?

    They are a danger to themselves and sometimes a potential danger to others and society – so it is worth tackling even if only for a few. Then in future other children will know they cannot make this destructive decision and they will remember they are children.

    Please, if there are people dedicated enough to plan and run a
    specialised and no nonsense family based house – lets get behind them and the project.

    The children will never be happy at the time, but when my personal freedom was taken away, new life could begin and true healing could start. My life has changed radically from a decisive and brave intervention.

    I don’t see how it is any different for these drug and street-life addicted kids. Lets not lose hope or the courage to fight for them.

    Claire Jones

  7. klinto says:

    I know these boys that you speak of well and I know that drastic measures are definately needed to get them out of their current situation but I also know that they do not need to be forced into anything. I agree with Faizel. Just as I firmly believe that we all know whats best for us, I know that these boys are still in touch with that part of themselves beneath all the self destructive behaviour and the addiction that drives it. Each of these boys has at some stage has spoken to me about their wish to leave the streets and the drugs and the shit all behind. They have not chosen this life because they think its so great, they chose this life because there seemed to be no better alternative for them. Now they are in a situation where they are enticed by the money and controlled by the drugs and they know they are not in control. No one can be happy with their life if they are not in control and these boys sure aint happy with the way things are. They have asked me for help before but I have been unable to help them. As far as I am aware there is no organisation in Cape Town that has the facilities, the understanding and the people who have what it takes to assist these guys. So hopefully there are some people out there who are busy creating that structure and getting the support necessary to sustain it because these boys have a long road to walk and will need people to walk it with them but those people will need the support of others. Ofcourse we can get these children off the streets and I don’t think they will be kicking and screaming. It won’t be easy though. So who is willing to take it on and who will cover the costs because it won’t be cheap either.

  8. Gerald says:

    As you said that the kids cannot make responsible decisions for themselves. They should be taken off the street whether it be against their will or not. It is disgusting that as you said that we are allowing children to live on the street and kill themselves. The people who make use of this kind of vulnerability should also be strongly dealt with through our law. DRUG DEALERS ON LONG STREET! PAEDOPHILES! CORRUPT SECURITY OFFICIALS! ADULTS WHO USE THEM TO BEG! I also think that there should be a controlling board to look at the standard of child care in institutions to SEE that they are acting in the best interest of the children in their care. Somewhere somehow there must be something lets all look! There MUST be something or else lets create some pressure on our local government to do so.

  9. Wonderz says:

    of course they need to be taken off the streets. they need to put into a self-sustaining environment so that they are not getting used to getting a hand outs from various organisations which is almost addictive for kids as drugs are.

    here’s a thought: take them outside of cape town. create a settlement of their own:

    farming for their own food therefore all that needs to be funded is the startup

    build their own houses

    learn responsibility

    connect with their peers

    eventually they will run the place fully and can house other “street kids” by mentoring them.

    i know this is very idealistic, but its my most immediate thoughts.

    the thing is most people say, “let’s do this, or let’s do that” but nobody really pushes through leaving the work of many to be implemented by few. also, funding is always a huge issue. the government and most funders want more bang for their buck, which is why make it self-sustainable is important.

  10. John says:

    I am not going to answer all of the questions. I am just going to answer the third just to get a little different perspective and to play a little devil’s advocate.

    While I completely understand the mindset of all the individuals who posted and want to force the child into a treatment facility, I wonder whether that will truly lead to the best possible result. I have always heard that one of the most crucial aspects of any rehabilitation program is that the individual be willing to be in the program and be committed to it. They must accept that they need help, or they will never truly get it. If they don’t accept the fact that they are addicts and ask for help, then they can simply sleepwalk their way through the rehab program, only to get out and relapse. As someone who has never done drugs, I don’t really know the answer and I don’t truly understand the power of addiction, but I would say that we should seek REAL change in these kids, and not just throw them into another system. The kids have already been beaten down and destroyed by the system.

    Maybe these kids are already in such a bad place that the only real option left is the extreme measure of throwing them in a treatment facility against their will. But, I do think if he or she was my child, I would try everything to try to convince him or her to commit him or herself. I believe with that commitment will come real change.

    As to what to do about adults, as a lawyer to be, I would say one of the best possible things you could do is lobby for legislation (Maybe you already have it) making it a heightened crime to deal drugs to minors or enable the minors to get drugs. Of course a drug dealer is always dealing the possibility of jail time. But if dealing to minors was an aggravator automatically tacking on an additional 10 years in prison, it might make them think twice. That is my suggestion (although, considering the difficulties in getting the term rape to include sodomy, I understand this might not be feasible).

  11. Beth says:

    I agree with Mama d that I would drag my child kicking and screaming and try everything….every intervention, every institution, every program I could possibly provide to save my child. Ryan/Brown was into some things that he shouldn’t have been when he was a teenager, but he was very sneaky and I hadn’t found out yet, when he developed his relationship with Jesus and turned away from the alcohol and drugs that he was experimenting with. I’m not shocked that he was trying some things, but I am shocked when he tells me how close he was to trying some “big” things. But I guarantee you that he knows and I know that his dad and I would have done EVERYTHING in our power to stop him. I realize though, that the difference here is, we had the resources to help him…health insurance, supportive friends and family, and the ability to get money even if we had needed to borrow it. In this case, society has to be the “parents” who will do EVERYTHING in its power to stop them. The hardest part for me is that after watching Ryan struggle to help these kids for almost 9 years, I realize that even the most wonderful, loving efforts won’t always work. As a matter of fact, it seems to be a small percentage that it does work once they are so entrenched in street life. But I believe that the children are too important to just give up on. I might not have been able to stop Ryan until he made up his mind to stop, but unless I enabled him to be in a place where he could make that “clear-minded” decision, then it would have been almost impossible for him to make a good decision. Now, after all of that rambling, I would do anything I could to help, but if I was unable, then I would hope and pray that someone would help my child. Is it a guarantee that they will be saved…No. Is it worth the effort…Yes.

  12. ChristiCheek says:

    There is not a doubt in my head that I would do everything in my power to get my child help, I would take him to the ends of the earth if it would help. Yes I would force them to go to a treatment facility against his will, because that’s what is best for him. As for the adults enabling my children to harm themselves, God help them. I would love to be able to say I would forgive them, I don’t know if I could. I would try my hardest not to kill the adults hurting my child, but I definatly would have the authorities get involved if nothing else.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Ryan’s mom in that we would have done anything in our power to “lead” Ryan in the right direction. Yes, the kids have been driven to the streets to fend for themsleves, but they don’t instantly become “positive” decision makers for themselves. Their decisions are driven by the worldly happenings on the street, thus decision making gets skewed by negative pier pressure instead of decisions guided by experienced parents or care givers.
    I agree with my lawyer son that strickter laws for dealing drugs to minors would be helpful, but then the system must be behind the law changes to enforce the law and to show the drug dealers that there is no tolerance for dealing drugs to minors. As for the disgusting thugs that take advantage of the youth, i have zero tolerance for this and think even harsher penalties should be delivered. It would take every ounce of grace i have to not want physical harm inflicted on these people if they abused my child.
    I have also seen Ryan’s struggles with the system over the years he has been in Cape Town, but I think now he has a forum and a larger support help to begin to fight for the rights of the kids. Someone in government has to step up and join the fight to help the kids get the help and assistance they need to beat this addiction and try to have a “normal” life which was never afforded to them. DAD

  14. Anonymous says:

    1) Of course I would care.

    2) I would do anything within my power to see them helped and healed.

    3) It goes back to some age old wisdom from my father-in-law. “As a parent, it’s my job to keep you alive until you’re 18.” If the government considers the child to be a minor , they are under the parents authority and the parents need to operate in that authority. It’s also the way it works in the kingdom of God. You are under the spiritual authority of your parents until you get married and leave that covering. For myself especially, I know I was not equipped to make life decisions like these kids are making at their ages. Heck, I don’t even think I’m strong enough now and I am almost 30.

    4) The enablers break my heart – both for how they endanger the kids and for the pit that they have fallen in themselves. I pray for deliverance, that the Lord would come and change hearts, attitudes, behaviors and that they would be willing to embrace Him.

    5) Well, does “them” mean the kids or the enabling adults? In either case, I think action has to be taken. If we allow the kids to stay on the streets making these decisions for themselves, there will be no end to the cycle of destruction. How that needs to happen? I wish I had a formula, but I have no clue.

    As far as the adults. Their crimes have to be taken seriously. Unfortunately I realize, in some instances that they even have ties with the authorities and it breaks my heart…Again I’m left without a difinitive course of action. As I said before, I continue to pray for the deliverance of all involved.

    Thanks for all you do Ryan. May the Lord show you where to focus your energy and give you favor among those in authority. We love you.

    -ABS

  15. mama d says:

    My last comment was from my mommy heart – this one is from my head in response to the john's 'devil's advocate' comment. I volunteer with women who are also coming out of addiction and often off the street. I know a person's decision to quit is recognized as a huge part of the recovery process for adults. I wondered if it is true for kids too and if it has the research to back it up. I've been perusing some clinical & peer reviewed research on these questions and here are some relevant points (I think)
    * Some treatment is proven to be better than no treatment.
    * There are legitimate uses of coercive treatment even for adults.
    *Coercive treatments can be effective.
    * Individual motivation can be stimulated and enhanced in a treatment setting.
    *For street youth, getting off the street is a first step to beating addiction.

    So, I'm going to still say kicking and screaming I'd want my boys to get help, even forced. Hopefully it would lead to their decision to participate in their own change. If not, at least someone tried and gave them that chance.

  16. Bethany says:

    1. You will always care no matter what your children do or how bad they are, they are your flesh and blood, my heart would be broken but there would still be love for them.

    2. I would go to every extent possible to get them help, until all options are totally expired. Even if that means them being away from me and everything they know. It is a moment of desperation, anything to SAVE THEIR LIFE.

    3. Yes, send them against their will, if that is what it takes, or they may die against their (and your) will. It is obvious they are not capable of making good judgment calls for their own well being.

    4. I have to say deep down I would want those adults, that are ruining my child’s life and taking it away, to suffer miserably. I know in the end it all will come out in the wash, but once a parent, you want to see the punishment when it comes to your kids.

    5. Those adults need help too, or
    they will continue to prey on these young kids and suck them in. Again I say I would want to see them suffer, but they need help too. They once were these young kids, making this a vicious cycle.

    These kids need chances to change, before they turn up dead (harsh word, but the truth.) Tough love!

  17. Darlene says:

    It would definitely be “heart wrenching” to see your own child in that situation – or ANY child.
    I would seek out the best possible
    place and get them off the streets. It only seems like things
    will keep getting worse for them unless they get help. It would not be easy for them, because they’re use to having so much freedom. But
    it doesn’t sound like they are capable of doing the “right” thing
    to turn their life around on their own. It appears they need someone to have a “tough love” for them. Someone willing to do whatever it takes to help them.
    Also, the adults that are supplying drugs for them should have some severe consequences….
    These are hard issues you’re dealing with, Ryan. We give you so
    much credit for what you are trying to do there! We’ll pray for life-change for these kids and also
    for wisdom for you.

  18. venjanaka says:

    Even though i don’t have wife and any kids, i can feel the sense of those having kids.

    if i were in there place, if i had such kinds of kids being badly addicted to drugs in the streets, my heart and spirit would be totally broken.

    But, as much as i can, i would try for them to get the needs and aids as quickly as possible.

    Parents and kids cannot be seperated each other. If something bad occurs to the kids, parents will surely suffer from it.

    In my point of view, parents should encourage their kids spiritually and stop them from using drugs and stop associating with those of drug-users.

  19. Pauliev says:

    Ditto to most all of the above…agree that we would all go to the ends of the earth to provide help for our kids…even against their immediate wishes.(tho in this country that could be hard) I become so overwhelmed with the depth of the problem…and know that Ryan and friends are a rare and gifted group that not only care but are taking that one step further. I was also impressed by the suggestion of an "off site" community that would have the ability in the long run to teach real skills as well as self worth…but I guess we all know that most of these kids would take some time just to get to that stage…a good idea tho…it might be a second or third stage for restoration.
    Legislation…which I know Ryan is passionate about is key as well…we all know that too!
    And not least is the importance of continued strategic prayer…on all levels, personal, community, governmental.
    Well …just thinking about all of this makes my head spin…and my spirit sink..it seems so big…But GOD. So with His leading & your hands, hearts and heads I pray for an opening for this next step. I know there must be more like you out there who have big vision!

  20. darlene says:

    The first question: What can you, Ryan, legally do in Capetown, SA? What are your legal rights and the childrens’ rights? I don’t know…but you probably have already investigated this issue. Given that, here’s my input.

    1. As a mother and a nurse: those children are being abused–sexually and misused by adults–brainwashed. They must be rescued–and I would use whatever methods I legally could to retrieve them, regardless of what the child wants or likes–the child is brainwashed and impaired by drugs–how can he/she make a decision that is wise at this time.

    The most important thing to remember is that if the child is removed from the circumstances, he/she should be treated with dignity and respect even though a difficult withdrawal from drugs will occur and strern limits are required. Tough Love doesn’t mean cruelty…Love can still be shown and given through withdrawal and decontamination from the brainwashing.

    We love you and what you are doing Ryan..God bless you in all your efforts and remember, we are praying for you and nothing is impossible with the Holy Spirit’s intervention–He can do it! Yes He can!!! d

  21. darlene says:

    Ryan…one more thing…Get the support of the Community behind you. Let them know what you are doing so you are seen as a Hero not a Villian. This is critically important to the success of your mission. Love you my son…daf

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