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How to Escape Abusive Parents: A Guide for Minors

How to Escape Abusive Parents: A Guide for Minors | Hopeful Panda

If you live in an abusive home, it’s important to learn how to escape your abusive parents. You deserve to be treated with love, care, and respect.

This guide is created for minors – children and teens younger than the legal age in your location. If you’re an adult stuck with abusive parents, please refer to this guide on how to escape abuse instead.

Unfortunately, as a minor, you don’t have many options since you are under your parents’ legal authority. However, I will do my best to let you know all the possible options you may consider to escape your abusive parents.

If you are in immediate danger, call the police.

Is What You’re Experiencing Abuse?

Before I continue, it’s important to know whether what you are facing is actually abuse.

Some children or teenagers might think rules and limitations from a parent are abuse. But that might not necessarily be so. So what makes something or someone abusive?

Sometimes, it may be difficult to tell if you’re dealing with abuse, especially when your parents might be really good at hiding their abusive side from others. They might also use tactics like gaslighting or blaming to make you question what really happened or make you believe it’s your fault.

Abuse tears away your sense of self, leaving you with long-lasting damage that can take your whole life to heal.

Other than physical and sexual abuse, if your parents call you names, insult you, put you down, parentifies you, gaslight you, ignore your feelings, treat you as lesser than, or blame you for their problems, then they are likely abusive.

Learn more about various types of abuse and neglect.

My Childhood with An Abusive Mother

Growing up, my mother often insulted me and called me names. She would pick at my flaws and insecurities, knowing very well that it hurts me. She also often blamed me for her unhappiness and lack of success.

If I disobeyed her or if she was unhappy for any reason, she would beat me, forbid me to eat, or shove me outside. Every time, she would blame me for making her do it. To this day, she still claims she was only disciplining me, that none of it was abusive.

I remember being a cheerful kid, not really knowing what abuse was. Or maybe I couldn't comprehend it. I thought my life was normal. It wasn't until middle school that I started slipping into a deep depression. Then, I started reflecting on my experiences. 

In high school, I finally realized that all this time, what I've been dealing with is abuse.

My childhood abuse has done quite a number to me. Now as an adult, the effects of being raised by an abusive parent still run strong. Luckily, my siblings and I are now away from our mother. We finally feel safe. It's important that you can eventually feel safe, too.

How Can You Prepare to Escape Your Abusive Parents?

There’s quite some content out there on how to escape abusive parents as adults. But resources for minors seem limited. Although it’s difficult to leave an abuser, it’s still easier for legal adults to leave their parents compared to children and teens.

While it may seem like there’s no choice, there are options you can consider. However, realize that each option comes with its own set of risks, which I’ll discuss further.

Before considering any of the options, it’s important to be prepared. So I’ll start with how you can do that.

Get support

Children who have at least one supportive adult in their life can significantly reduce the damage their abuse has on them.

Do you have a relative or trusted neighbor you can reach out to? How about a teacher, guidance counselor, or doctor? It’s really helpful to have an adult you can talk to about problems at home.

Although they might not be able to help you get out of your situation, it can be helpful to get things off your chest and have someone to support and validate your feelings and experiences.

It’s also possible that a relative can let you stay with them from time to time so you can at least temporarily escape your abuse. An adult might also be able to help you learn independence and prepare for your escape.

If you don’t have anyone you can reach out to, look into organizations or online forums that might be able to provide resources and tips on what you can do as a minor.

CPS could become involved

CPS, also known as Child Protective Services, is a government agency in many states in the U.S. responsible for providing child protection, including responding to reports of child abuse or neglect. Some states, however, use other names (e.g. ACS in New York).

If you talk about the abuse you face at home to a teacher, doctor, social worker, or other professionals, they’ll likely report your parents to CPS. I will discuss more later about the risks and benefits of CPS as an option to escape your abusive parents.

Gather Information

Try to keep a record of your parents’ abusive behavior. These can be audio or video recordings, photos, texts, or emails they’ve sent you. They can even be your own written accounts of things they say or do to you. Include any medical attention or witnesses for every incident if possible.

Keep the information hidden from your parents. You can keep a folder of it somewhere online and password-protect it so that even if they have access to your devices, they won’t be able to find it. This record can be useful if you need to prove their abuse to the authorities or someone else someday.

What are Your Options to Escape Your Abusive Parents As a Minor?

So after getting support and gathering information, it’s time to learn about and weigh your options. You may discuss these options with your support network to see what they think.

Each option comes with its pros and cons. Please think very carefully when considering any of these options.

1. Involve CPS

Whenever I see a minor asking about how to escape their abusive parents, people’s responses tend to be “call CPS”.

This is typically the obvious option when trying to get a minor away from their abusive or unfit parents. While this option comes with many possible benefits, it also comes with many possible downfalls.

As a previous foster parent to my siblings, I have had both positive and negative experiences with CPS and foster agencies that other people not involved might not be aware of.

The Benefits of Foster Care

Before I talk about all the possible negatives, I want to mention the benefits of involving CPS.

The best-case scenario with being in foster care is ending up with a loving foster family you can stay with until they adopt you or until you’re old enough to make it on your own.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. There are typically not enough foster homes for the growing number of foster youth in the system unless you have a relative that’d be willing to become a foster parent for you.

But being a foster youth does come with benefits like access to healthcare, schooling, counseling, jobs, and many other resources that can help prepare you for adulthood.

There are specialized departments and social workers that can support and meet your wants and needs.

Whether you want to get a job, earn a specific degree, learn a skill, or participate in a program, workers from your foster care agency could help you with that or guide you in the right direction.

The Downfalls and Risks of Involving CPS

Now, onto the not-so-great stuff.

Lack of Stability

Once you’re in the foster care system, you might stay stuck in a group home or hop from foster home to foster home.

This means constantly changing families, homes, schools, and friends. The lack of stability can cause you to fall behind academically. It can also cause distress as you’re struggling to adapt to these constant changes.

Possibility of Abuse

Although becoming foster parents require in-depth background checks and interviews, abusive foster parents do exist.

Caseworkers have come into my home before to check my siblings for marks on their bodies, claiming abuse in foster homes was on the rise due to the pandemic.

It can be scary knowing how abusive people can become certified foster parents. It shows that they’re good at hiding their abuse.

Another possible issue is dealing with bullying from other kids. However, if you talk to your caseworker or any other staff at the agency about what’s happening, they’ll usually do their best to help you.

Nothing Happens

There is a chance that calling CPS does nothing.

Depending on who your parents are and how well they can hide their abusive behavior, CPS might not find anything wrong with them or your home. That’s why it’s important to have a record of the abuse with you so you can show them if needed.

While it’s easier to prove physical abuse and easier for workers to take sexual abuse seriously, emotional abuse is in a whole other realm.

Even with evidence, workers might not take emotional abuse seriously. Having evidence of the abuse and how it’s affecting you might cause them to care. But it’s not guaranteed.

So after everything, the workers might just leave. They might follow up another time or they might not.

While you can say no harm is done, the problem is that now your parents are alerted. Their abuse might become worse or more subtle, which makes proving their abuse even harder.

Everything Might Be Blamed On You

If getting nothing done is bad, what’s worse is having everything blamed on you.

Some adults are biased toward minors, especially teenagers. CPS workers are no different. They might assume that because you’re young, you’re dramatic or rebellious. Or they might even think that you’re the one abusing your parents.

As messed up as it sounds, some workers might even be in this job for the power. They might not care at all what happens to you or your parents. They just want to know that they are the authority figures in the situation and that whatever they decide goes.

The initial CPS workers that showed up after I called ended up blaming everything on me and my partner. My mother managed to convince them that we were the ones causing trouble. And this was after my sister already talked about some of my mother’s behavior, which my mother claimed was a result of our constant “harassment”.

The workers I dealt with put in their report that my partner and I needed to leave. They ignored our side of the story and disregarded us because we were young adults “mooching off” my mother. And while they stepped out to make a call, my mother threatened us while also telling my sister what to say.

Maybe mine was the worst-case scenario, but those workers were completely incompetent. Yet they had the power to destroy my life if they wanted to because of their position.

I was lucky their shift was over so someone else took over. If not, my partner and I, the only form of protection my siblings had, might’ve been mandated to leave the home, thus leaving my siblings unprotected with our abusive mother.

So, should CPS get involved?

While there are incompetent and biased workers, there are also many helpful and empathetic workers who will listen to you and help you.

I’ve met way more good workers than bad ones. I don’t want to scare you, but just want you to be prepared for all the possibilities – good or bad.

If involving CPS and being in foster care is in your opinion the best option to escape your abusive parents, then go ahead and make the call.

However, I recommend asking a teacher, guidance counselor, or another trusted adult to call for you. That way, you would have a supportive adult on your side.

Be prepared to mention why you want to involve CPS and provide examples of the abuse or neglect you’re facing. It will be helpful to have the information you gathered about your abuse with you.

Other information you might need to provide is the names and ages of everyone who lives in the home, your address, and whether there are other minors in the home.

2. Run Away

When you don’t want to involve CPS because you’re scared of ending up in another abusive home or you don’t want to be controlled by adults, running away might be the only answer you have. But before you resort to this, ask yourself these questions first.

Am I in danger if I stay?

If the abuse at home is severe and a danger to your safety, running away could be an option. You can also call the cops or CPS if you feel that you’re in immediate danger. But be prepared to be taken from your parents if you do.

How will I survive?

Running away might sound good in theory because you will no longer have to deal with your abusive parents. But other problems will likely come up.

Where will you live? How will you support yourself? What if you come across people worse than your parents?

It’s important to have an escape plan where you have everything mapped out for you before you decide to run away as a minor.

Where will I go?

If you decide to run away, where will you go? You need to arrange for a safe place to go like a trusted friend’s house or a relative’s.

While a shelter might be an option, it is also only temporary. It’s best to go for a long-term option.

And try to arrange this beforehand. Avoid sleeping on the streets at all costs because it can be just as, if not more dangerous, than staying with your parents.

What are all the possible risks?

Think of all the consequences you can be getting into if you run away.

Runaways have a higher risk of destructive behavior, drug abuse, getting STIs, and many other difficulties. Also, note that whoever you are staying with could end up in legal trouble for taking you in.

Also, realize that your parents have the right to call the cops and report you missing. If and when you’re found, you might be forced to return to them or put into a juvenile detention center if you’ve committed any crimes during your time as a runaway.

It might help to explain the situation at home to the police but it isn’t guaranteed. Cops might not care or in the best-case scenario, turn you over to CPS.

So, should you run away?

Running away is the riskiest and least optimal option on this list. I only included it because I know it’s something many youths do. After all, they don’t feel like they have any other choice.

If you have no other choice and running away is your only option, then please make sure you have enough money and a place to go. And it’s better if you have a support network to reach out to during this time. Again, avoid being on the streets at all costs.

You can also reach out to various organizations that can give you resources and tips on what you can do and what your rights are as a runaway.

Childhelp National Child Abuse HotlineA 24-hour hotline with resources to aid in every child abuse situation. All calls are confidential. Text or live chat is also available. Consists of a map to report child abuse in your state.
Covenant HouseInformation about shelters and crisis centers for minors
Victim ConnectA list of national hotlines for various types of issues

3. Go live with a relative or family friend

Depending on your parents and situation, you may not have to involve CPS or resort to running away.

If you have a relative or family friend that is willing to take you in, that is a reasonable option as long as your parents are okay with it. That way, you can avoid the possible downfalls of dealing with CPS or running away.

Of course, this option is only possible if you can find someone willing to let you live with them, preferably a relative or family friend. Maybe you can sweeten the deal and offer to pay rent or help out with housework.

However, remember that even if you’re living elsewhere, your parents still have rights over you until you’re legally an adult. You will still need their consent on things like healthcare, education, and such. They can also make certain decisions for you or make you return home at any point whether you like it or not.

If that’s something you’re worried about, your parents can give up their parental rights so that you can be adopted by someone else or become an emancipated minor (discussed in the next section).

However, that requires your parents to either voluntarily give up their rights, for someone else to petition the court for your custody, or for you to petition the court to become an emancipated minor.

4. Become an emancipated minor

Becoming an emancipated minor is not usually something that’s discussed when talking about escaping abusive parents. It also only applies if you’re at least 14 to 16 years old.

But if you want to get away from your parents’ control and become an adult before you reach your legal age, then this could be the option for you.

Being emancipated means you can do almost anything a legal adult can do with some limitations that vary by state. But generally, you can get a work permit, earn money, live on your own, and make your own financial, healthcare, and educational decisions.

To become emancipated, you need to prove to the court that you can financially and physically support yourself. Look more into how to become an emancipated minor and see if it’s a possible option for you.

5. Stay till you’re old enough to leave

As much as it sucks to say, sometimes, your only choice is to stay until you’re old enough to leave on your own. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but if you can manage to deal with your parents and you have a support system, then the best option might be to stay put.

Other options, which might seem like a way out, might not be worth it or could end up making things worse.

However, you are the one who knows your situation. You are the one who knows what you can and cannot handle. As long as you carefully consider all your options and put into consideration all the possible risks, decide what you think is best.

If you are stuck with a narcissist or an emotionally abusive parent, you can learn how best to deal with their abusive and manipulative tactics.

If you decide to stay for now, do your best to cope and start planning for your escape. The world is hard out there and you need to be ready to face it when the time comes. Refer to this guide made for adults on how you can start preparing to escape your abusive parents.

And remember, you can always refer back to this guide and these options whenever you want. Your current decision doesn’t have to be final or permanent.

Remember to Protect Yourself

Whatever you decide to do in the end is up to you. Whether you’re staying with your parents, involving CPS, or moving in with a relative, it’s best to learn how to protect yourself wherever you are.

Have a support network you can reach out to. Learn healthy coping skills to deal with the abuse and the effects it has on you. Learn how to be more independent so that you can rely on yourself once you’re an adult.

And if you are ever in any immediate danger, call the police or CPS because at that point, screw everything else – your safety is the priority.

How to Escape Abusive Parents: A Guide for Minors | Hopeful Panda

Conclusion

I won’t lie to you and say that things will get better, because no one knows what will happen tomorrow. Even if you can escape your abusive parents, you’re still left with the lasting damage their abuse has caused.

However, if you are fortunate enough to have enough support to help you, then take full advantage of it. And as hard as it is, try to be grateful for it and be open to accepting all the help you can get.

I know this may sound discouraging, but whatever your decision is, the best thing you can do is to take it one step at a time and do your best to plan, utilizing all the help, support, and resources you can to make it out into the world.

It’s best to utilize the support and resources while you’re still underage. Unfortunately, once you’re a legal adult, it’s harder to gain sympathy from others. Not that it’s impossible, but it will be more difficult.

If you’ve decided to stay till the right time comes, then try your best to survive while preparing and planning to escape your abusive parents.

In the end, I just want to say that I am sorry for whatever you are going through.

Having dealt with childhood abuse myself, I know how confusing, exhausting, scary, upsetting, and isolating it can be.

I can’t say I fully understand what you’re going through because everyone’s experiences are different. Nonetheless, your feelings and experiences are valid and I wish you the best of luck with everything.

Support Hopeful Panda

Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

A lot of time and effort is put into this blog. If you enjoy my content or find it helpful, please consider making a donation or becoming a member. Your support helps me continue providing free content for all. Thank you!


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