"They can do good things with their lives, but they need someone to guide them. I realised these children were just like me...when I see a child it's like seeing my own nephew. What if I can do something for these children? That is why I do Street Work."Arpita, Street Worker at CINI, Kolkata Unit, India
What does street work look like?
Street Work is conducted by trained, adult professionals, who use child-centered and rights-based approaches to directly support street-connected children. It takes place where the young person is, on the street. It also begins from where young people are in terms of their values, issues and ambitions. It is characterised by an empowering interaction between children and trained adult street workers, founded upon a relationship of trust. Street work utilises a range of youth and community work methods to engage directly with young people and members of their communities.
Street work activities include group and individual work on the streets. This can include creative and sporting activities, or simply having conversations with a young person one to one.
Street workers also engage communities, including governments. This work challenges the negative attitudes which can lead to systemic discrimination and abuse. Many of the organisations we partner with educate stakeholders about street-connected children and about their duty of care.
The process is as important as the outcome
Regardless of the activities undertaken, the process of street work remains the same. Street work is a rights-based, child centred approach. This means that children are recognised as rights-holders and in turn furthers the realisation of child rights as established in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). It also means that children are recognised as capable agents in their own lives and are involved in decision making.
Because street children face multiple barriers to being heard, valuing them and understanding their experiences, perspectives, wishes and feelings is vital. Being child-centred begins by creating a safe, supportive and enabling environment in which children can express their views and have these views taken seriously.
Positive change is different for every child
Street work increases children’s safety, strengthens their sense of belonging in their communities and helps them access vital services. A street worker can...
- Help children access food, shelter and medical care.
- Challenge abuse, violence and discrimination in the community.
- Provide informal education and skills training.
- Reunite children with their families, if it is safe for them to go home.
Every child’s needs, wants and dreams are different. This means that each child's journey is unique to them. Some children leave the streets for good and return home to their families. Others might enter full-time education, skills training or find suitable work. For others, these outcomes might not be an option.
For all children, a street worker can give them a sense of self-worth and security. This allows each child to explore options in their lives that they might not have considered otherwise.