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How mom helped turn daughter’s life around

Associated Press. (1995, December 18). How mom helped turn daughter’s life around. San Diego Union Tribune, p. A3.


Esther De La Cruz of Los Angeles, California, has been involved in a battle to keep her young daughter, Maria, away from gangs, drugs, and sex. However, when Esther realized she was fighting a losing battle, she took a drastic step. Esther and her spouse put their daughter on a plane and sent her back to their native Mexico, where she stayed for seven months.

After arriving in Guadalajara, Maria lived with her aunt. She worked in a clothing store seven days a week, did various household chores, and attended school regularly. When Maria returned to Los Angeles after seven months, she joined the Police Department’s Explorer Academy, where young people assist officers in law enforcement duties. Now a freshman in high school, Maria talks about becoming a probation officer or a nurse.

A growing number of parents are removing their teenagers from Los Angeles’ violent streets and placing them in Latin American communities. Their goal is to put their kids in safe environments where experimentation in sex, drugs, and violence is strictly forbidden and education, hard work, and family loyalty are strongly emphasized.

Maria says that living in Mexico made her aware of the many comforts she had while living in Los Angeles. Before the experience, she had not appreciated having her own room, her own phone, and caring parents. Maria’s relationship with her mother is now much better, and she feels that her life is "opening up."


  1. What do you think of this tactic for keeping teenagers safe from social dangers?
  2. Do you think an organized cultural exchange-type program would help keep kids out of trouble?


    • When faced with social pressures to experiment with drugs, sex, and other anti-social activities, it is easy for a young person to lose sight of the opportunities he or she has. Introducing a young person to another dramatically different culture may help them gain perspective about the choices and opportunities that are available to them.
    • Young people can benefit from the experiences of their parents and other adults. The positive influence of adults can be critical in keeping kids on a healthy and productive course.

Sheila Walsh cCYS