Advice takeaways urged for children

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 December, 1995, 12:00am

SOCIAL welfare officers have been asked to consider setting up fast-food style centres to provide on-the-spot counselling for runaways at night.

The proposal was raised by the Federation of Youth Groups after a survey on young people who repeatedly ran away. .

More than 3,000 youngsters under the age of 15 were reported missing annually over the past three years.

The federation has conducted case studies into 25 children and teenagers aged between 10 and 17, and who have repeatedly left home for a few days to five years.

Sixteen were attending school, five were unemployed, and four working. Some left a contact number for their parents.

Only three families reported the cases to police. Most runaways stayed overnight on the waterfront at the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui and at a 24-hour fast-food restaurant in Mongkok.

The federation's report said: 'Some of them killed time chatting, laughing, drinking, and smoking in groups while others sat on their own doing nothing.

'When they got tired, they might just fall asleep on the spot. Those who had money might go to a karaoke bar with friends,' it said.

Yet others opted to take drugs.

Selling fake compact discs - which could make an average of $300 and up to $1,000 a night - was one way of supporting their lifestyles.

Most respondents were disappointed with their families, and many said their parents were too authoritarian.

The federation suggested the Government help set up a long-term hostel for teenagers who cannot go home.

Executive Council convenor Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, executive director of the federation, said the Government should also consider strengthening parental education and providing better services for teenagers.

One option is to provide counselling in special midnight youth centres, mobile counselling units in a bus or sending social workers to fast-food outlets.

Drugs and alcohol should be banned at these places.

Chief Social Work Officer, June Sherry, said their working group on youth at risk would consider the recommendations, which would be raised with voluntary agencies.

'We agree the problem needs to be emphasised,' she said.

Peter Newbery, director of Youth Outreach, the only agency providing short-term hostels for runaways, agreed services should be diversified.

The group estimates up to 20,000 young people run away or stay away from home every year.

A RUNAWAY'S VIEW OF PARENTS THIS is how one of the runaways felt about her parents: 'The police were called twice when I started running away, but they did not do that later. I was beaten seriously in each case with a chair or a cane.

'I was beaten so seriously that the cane broke. I was bleeding and the neighbours were woken . . . but I didn't care, I kept running away from home.

'He [my father] always wants me to stay at home . . . he doesn't understand and is demanding.

'He is just like a man with two faces. He pretends to be a good husband and a good father before us . . . [but] he may have a mistress on the mainland.

'I feel ashamed when going out with my mother. She wears clothes that people laugh at. A classmate once asked me if she was a prostitute and I was very angry.

'She is very selfish. She once promised to buy me a pair of shoes. But she then said she had no money after getting a pair for herself.

'She then bought another pair.' 'My mother always says I am nasty to her. I think she is nasty to me.'