Who are street children?
StreetInvest operates under the description of street children from the UN Human Rights report from 2011 where they are referred to as ‘street-connected’ and ‘is understood as a child for whom the street is a central reference point- one which plays a significant role in his/her everyday life and identity’ . We recognise this as including children that live and work on the street, but also children and young people who migrate between 'home' and the street.
There has been much discussion about definitions and descriptions of street children since, but StreetInvest’s view is that these have largely only served to mystify understanding of who street children are. For StreetInvest, and for the street workers that meet these children, we recognise that each child is an individual demonstrating a range of other identities. Like any other child, a street child is a brother, sister, son, friend, worker, orphan, child, adolescent, and many more. It is these identities that a street worker will get to know.
What is relevant to both the child and the street worker in working together is to reduce risk, enhance capabilities and strengthen relationships with family and community. The street worker is not working with a street child who is a problem but an individual in a street-connected situation which will shape a child’s journey.
Where are they?
Why are they there?
Street Children fall through the gaps in the safety net of society. Poverty and family background have always been associated with street children but, clearly, not all poor children take to the street, nor are all street children orphans or abandoned. “Most families of street children have experienced persistent discrimination, poverty and social exclusion within societies where inequalities are high and/or growing. Few have received economic support, child-care assistance, help to ensure that absent parents assume responsibilities towards their children, access to mental health or drug rehabilitation services”.
How many are there?
There are very few reliable statistics about the number of street children worldwide. UNICEF estimates from the 1990’s of more than 100 million street children around the world are widely quoted but have little basis in fact. Most practitioners believe this number to be exaggerated, but clearly the number is large and has grown with increased urbanisation, particularly in emerging economies and there are more children in areas where the gaps in the social safety net are widest.
What can we do?
StreetInvest believes that responses should be child-centred and rights based. We should work where the child is, respect the child’s existing circumstances and relationships, listen to their views about their own needs and see the child neither as a victim nor a criminal but as a positive agent of their own change.
We believe that the street worker, as a responsible and trustworthy adult in the street child’s life, is the first point of contact to a safer life, with enhanced capabilities to improve their well-being and strengthen relationships with family & community. To be able to bring those child-centred and rights based responses, the street worker needs before anything else to build a relationship of trust with the child.