Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Long Walk Down the Aisle

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Long Walk Down the Aisle

Article excerpt

ON an otherwise gray late-winter day, a friend delivers news as unexpected and cheering as crocuses in the snow: The couple's 27-year-old daughter is being married in June.

As she outlines wedding plans and describes her future son-in-law, her eyes shine with the happiness any prospective mother of the bride might feel. But in this case, her joy carries an added dimension, made sweeter by all that has led up to this moment.

Not so many years ago, during the darkest periods of their adopted daughter's turbulent adolescence, no one in the family would have dared predict this kind of happy outcome. Youthful rebellion took many forms. The teenager experimented with drugs. She was truant. She became pregnant at 16, eventually releasing her baby for adoption. At times the problems seemed so severe, her companions so unsuitable, that counselors urged the parents to bar her from the house.

Yet the couple could no more lock this wayward child out of their home than they could lock her out of their hearts. So they carried on bravely, smiling publicly and crying privately, trying to preserve a normal family life for their other children.

Gradually, their efforts bore fruit, and their daughter began taking the first tentative steps toward a more stable life. She received her high school equivalency degree and enrolled in classes at a community college. She also found employment, eventually training to become a nurse.

Under other circumstances, in a less supportive home, this young woman might have become one of a growing number of "throwaways" or "pushouts" - children whose parents will not or cannot care for them. Falcon Baker, author of a new book, "Saving Our Kids: From Delinquency, Drugs, and Despair," estimates that more than one million children have been rejected by their families, forced to make their own way on the streets or in shelters. Their average age is 15.

These tragic failures, which can result from mistakes by both generations, run counter to the hopes and dreams and best intentions of most parents. They also defy the powerful images of happily-ever-after domesticity portrayed on TV sitcoms, where parents are understanding, children are malleable, and all problems are solved in 22 minutes. …

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