On the front page of The Border Mail today (our local newspaper) was a story about two teenage girls aged 14 who broke into a house and several cars in my parents street. It happened at about 4am and these girls had a mother, home alone with her children, cowering in the bedroom while they ransacked the house for car keys, money and iPhone.
The headline of the story is Family in fear as home ransacked but girl, 14, is....Child No One Wants. I don't know these girls and what their backgrounds are, but I have to ask the question, where the hell were their parents and what were they doing roaming the streets at that time of the morning? I truly believe that if your under the age of 16 and the sun is down, you should not be roaming around unaccompanied by an adult. It's not just for our safety, it's for theirs too.
Stories like this raise the question of whether parents should be held accountable for their child's actions. Clearly in this case one of the girls parents is refusing to take her back. On the one hand I say teach this rat-bag a lesson and let her sit in detention for a couple of days until she realises how serious her crime was. On the other hand I truly feel sorry for her that she has no-one showing her love and trying to help her with her behavioural issues.
This girl is barely a teenager, probably has no idea of the terror she caused this mother and her two children, as well as the rest of the street who heard the commotion and woke to a street full of police the next morning.
Last year my sisters were travelling home to Canberra from my place after Emily's 1st Birthday party. They had decided to put the 5 children they have between them with their partners in the Torago, and get some sister time and peace and quiet for half the journey home in my older sisters Ford. As they travelled up the main road a 13 year old girl came straight through a give-way sign and hit them side on pushing them into a telegraph pole head on. The force of the accident was huge and we were so lucky that air-bags deployed and injuries were not too major. Luckier still that no one was killed and that all the kids were in the Torago behind them.
This 13 year old girl came from a single parent home and her mother worked night shift. She had an eight year old friend in the passenger seat and they wanted to buy lollies from Coles and watch DVD's for the afternoon. Their mother, who was exhausted after pulling a 10 hour shift the night before, refused to take them to the supermarket so while she was asleep the girl took her mothers car.
The actions of that girl had such a domino affect. She was charged with several offences and had to appear in juvenile court. Her mothers car wasn't covered by insurance as the driver was an immediate family member and unlicensed. It also didn't cover the damage to my sisters car. This single mother already struggled to make ends meet and now she was down a car and had to pay costs for damage done by her daughter.
This mother did nothing wrong. When she arrived on the scene her primary concern was that her daughter wasn't injured and that no one else was seriously hurt. She was doing her level best to nurture and bring this girl up in a decent environment and I remember her commenting that the behaviour was unlike her daughter.
Teenagers think they're invincible. They have raging hormones and often act before thinking. How can we ensure they stay safe and do the right thing? I remember what I was like and if I'd made up my mind that I wanted something, no one was going to stop me. How do we ensure that our youth understand the consequences of their actions and should we hold parents accountable when they break the law? Do we leave it up to the magistrate to make individual calls depending on circumstances or do we have a blanket rule for all?
What do you think?