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Out of the Darkness


The impacts of family dysfunction and addiction on kids like Kyla are hard to measure, and some may not be apparent for years. Kyla's mom worries about that, knowing that her daughter bears scars and impressions that cannot be erased. Some of the fallout is already evident. Kyla struggles with anger -- at her mother and father. She still lives in "survival mode" -- wearing three and four layers of clothing, stashing money and bits of food -- because she went for years living in hunger and poverty. She's been diagnosed with depression. Her vocabulary is rich in profanity, and her street knowledge can make most adults blush.

"She knows way too much for a child her age," observes her school principal.

Despite all this, Kyla -- like all the other children out there who face challenges -- is still a child with a world full of potential ahead of her. And things are looking up. Her grades have stabilized at As and Bs, she's much more likely to flash a smile than her temper, and she has a best friend -- the first in her life. She's excited about school and her upcoming birthday party. And she's proud of her mom. Now that's something to celebrate.

At Risk, At a Glance

Half of all American children will witness the breakup of their parents' marriage. (Furstenberg, Peterson, Nord, and Zill, "Life Course")

20 percent of all adolescents suffer from serious emotional or behavioral problems. (Catholic Education Resource Center)

Approximately 6 million children live with a parent who's abused an illicit drug in the past month. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

By eighth grade, 52 percent of kids have consumed alcohol, 41 percent have smoked cigarettes, and 20 percent have used marijuana. (Innovators Combating Substance Abuse)

10 to 20 percent of children are at risk of exposure to domestic violence. (

More than half a million children are currently in foster care. (The Heritage Foundation)

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