What do we mean by street children?
When Childhood speaks about street children, we are referring to a diverse group of children for whom the street has become their home and/or source of livelihood: children who live on the street without parents, children who work on the street during the day but return to their homes (often in slum-like conditions) in the evening, children who live on the street with their family, children who move between their home, the street and institutions, children who sometimes live on the street and move between their home, the street and institutions or children who are traveling (between various cities and countries).
What is the goal of Childhood’s work on behalf of street children?
Children who live and work on the street are at greatest risk of exposure to violence, abuse and exploitation. Many are forced to sell sex and are easy prey for human traffickers. Domestic poverty, violence and addiction are common reasons why children are forced to leave home and live on the street.
As with other risk groups, Childhood’s work is focused on preventive measures. The goal is that no child will need to live or work on the street. Supporting families with a difficult social situation is key to preventing children from leaving their homes and for helping them leave the street.
For children who already live on the street, our goal is to reintegrate the child back into the community – a process that may take time and require a different approach depending on the child’s unique situation.
What does Childhood do?
Childhood supports projects that work with all of the groups mentioned above. The goal is always that the child will move away from the street to a safer environment. Finding a home for street children can take various forms – some children can return to their families, others will require a foster family or are old enough to live on their own.
Many street children have lost all trust in adults. The projects we support are therefore focused on building trust and encouraging the child to accept help. Children who have spent a long time on the street are often very independent and may find routine and structure difficult. Strengthening their own will to make positive changes is therefore key.
More specifically, the projects involve outreach work to connect and build trust and gradually provide more formal support, such as drop-in centers and short-term accommodation. They may also offer medical assistance and counseling, help to reconnect with family and relatives and to regain lost schooling.
The projects that Childhood supports are focused on gradually building up a safer alternative to life on the street rather than handing out food and providing the children with temporary beds – which, at worst, could result in the children staying even longer in the dangerous street environment.