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Pediatric Community Advocacy Rotation-Youth homelessness


As a resident on my community pediatrics rotation, I recently had the chance to visit a homeless youth center. This was a very eye opening experience for me. Shortly after, I shared the experience with my husband, a third generation soldier in his 8th year of Army service. I explained to him the disadvantages these children face including  leaving school and entering the work force. I described how these kids often do well in school and want to pursue a college degree, but it is often out of reach for them. That many of these individuals are motivated by the adversity they have faced.

My husband in his in his all too familiar blunt and slightly bitter tone said: “Uncle Sam doesn’t discriminate, if you’ve got four limbs and a pulse he’ll feed you, house you, give you a salary, health care and send you to college.” As much as it pains me to say for once in my life I had no rebuttal.

As pediatricians, should we be encouraging these children to take the opportunities available to them, right? What if those opportunities are not the traditional recommendations? I suddenly had a million questions. My husband provided me with the insight that there are more technical jobs in the military then there are fighting ones. A lot of the skills learned are transferable to civilian life. And afterwards, they leave with an excellent job reference!

I understand encouraging a child to join the military and possibly put themselves in a dangerous situation appears paradoxical. As a pediatrician who has devoted their life to the health and safety of children this idea shocked me a little. But the more I thought about it, it didn’t seem so crazy. My husband has gained skills, experience and qualifications in the military which have given him his full time civilian job, which he loves, is successful at, and supports us. IT, supply, vehicle maintenance, cooking, medicine and more. These are just a few of the possibilities for careers in the military.

This is of course not the only solution for the homeless youth of Indiana. It will likely not be the right option for many of theses young people, but if you would like to learn more you can visit:


The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Jessica Saunders

I am a 2nd year catagorical pediatrics resident at Indiana University