How the term of ‘Street Children’ can be defined? Such as not belong to anywhere but accepted by the streets? Or a group of children who are derelict and lost their social functions in a society? Most common definition about the street cildren is “any girl or boy who has not reached adulthood, for whom the street (in the broadest sense of the word, including unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, etc.) has become her or his habitual abode and/or sources of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, supervised or directed by responsible adults” (Inter-NGO, 1985). Many studies have determined that street children are most often boys aged 10 to 14, with increasingly younger children being affected (Amnesty International, 1999). As mentioned in definition, all around the world, there is a big problem about children who learn the hardest life conditions with abuse. Researches and observations continue to reduce bad effects of these conditions and many agencies, asssociatons including Unicef study about this issue.
US AID has divided Street Children into Four Categories:
A “Child of the Streets’: Children who have no home but the streets, and no family support. They move from place to place, living in shelters and abandoned buildings.
A “Child on the street’: Children who visit their families regularly and might even return every night to sleep at home, but spend most days and some nights on the street because of poverty, overcrowding, sexual or physical abuse at home.
Part of a Street Family: These children live on sidewalks or city squares with the rest of their families. They may be displaced due to poverty, wars, or natural disasters. The families often live a nomadic life, carrying their possessions with them. Children in this case often work on the streets with other members of their families.
In Institutionalized Care: Children in this situation come from a situation of homelessness and are at risk of returning to a life on the street.
There are some factors which make a children as nobody’s nobody. A Street figure is drawn and children have a special environment to set their own perspective without any support. What are these factors and how factors too important about increasing street children number? The combination of familial, economic, social, and political factors play an important role in their situation.
There are many definitions of the term ‘homelessness’. It is mostly depends on policies of the countries and different extensions of the various situations. For example ‘homelessness’, corresponding to the group of individuals or families who are accepted as ‘homeless’ by local housing authorities. This excludes applicants deemed to have made themselves intentionally homeless, and several groups which are either not identified as priorities for rehousing, or which do not choose to apply to their local housing authority. These groups include single adult rough sleepers and hostel users not referred to local housing authorities; and other groups without stable housing, such as individuals or families doubling up, living in squats, or living as travellers (Williams and Avebury 1995).
Estimates of the number of homeless families and children therefore vary with the definition used. An analysis of official statistics (Christina Victor, 1999) indicates that each year local housing authorities accept about 143,000 families as ‘homeless’, which include over 170,000 children. To this should be added up to 7000 teenagers living rough or living in hostels. There is a constant turnover in the homeless population, which means that substantially more children experience at least one episode of homelessness before adulthood.
- The Effects Of Street And Homeless Life
Homelessness and street life have extremely detrimental effects on children. Their unstable lifestyles, lack of medical care, and inadequate living conditions increase young people’s susceptibility to chronic illnesses such as respiratory or ear infections, gastrointestinal disorders, and sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.( Alston, Philip. P. 29.) Children fending for themselves must find ways to eat; some scavenge or find exploitative physical work. Many homeless children are enticed by adults and older youth into selling drugs, stealing, and prostitution.
Drug use by children on the streets is common as they look for means to numb the pain and deal with the hardships associated with street life. Studies have found that up to 90 percent of street children use psychoactive substances, including medicines, alcohol, cigarettes, heroin, cannabis, and readily available industrial products such as shoe glue.
The mental, social and emotional growth of children are affected by their nomadic lifestyles and the way in which they are chastised by authorities who constantly expel them from their temporary homes such as doorways, park benches, and railway platforms. Countries in Latin America like Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Brazil are notorious for the torture and violence inflicted on street children, many times escalating to murder “by police officers or death squads. Street children lack security, protection, and hope, and continue to face a deep-rooted negative stigma about homelessness. And, more than anything else, they lack love.
- Violence at Home
Violence at home is one of the major predictors of whether children and youth will experience homelessness. Among homeless mothers with children, more than 80 percent previously experienced domestic violence (The United States Conference of Mayors, 2007). Women with children in homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters are found to have very similar characteristics, including their exposure to traumatic experiences( Rukmana, D. 2008). Intimate partner violence is a known determinant of housing instability(Pavao, J.; Alvarez, J.; Baumrind, N.; Induni, M.; Kimerling, R. 2007). Unaccompanied youth often have prior experiences of violence, either witnessing violence or being abused physically or sexually( Covenant Housing Institute, C. H. 2009). More youth in runaway and homeless programs report fights and physical or emotional abuse from their family members, compared with those without such experiences(Powers, J. L.; Eckenrode, J.; Jaklitsch, B. 1990). The majority of youth in runaway andhomeless youth programs report their biological mothers as a main perpetrator of maltreatment (Powers, J. L.; Eckenrode, J.; Jaklitsch, B. 1990).
THE IMPACT OF HOMELESSNESS ON CHILDREN AND YOUTH
- Juvenile Delinquency
Unaccompanied youth tend to engage in delinquent survival strategies on the streets and several factors account for this. First, youth on the streets in particular have few legitimate means to support themselves. Second, those with more frequent runaway experiences are more likely to be involved in delinquent survival strategies, such as selling drugs, shoplifting, burglary, robbery or prostitution(Whitbeck, L. B.; Simons, R. L. 1990). Runaway youth are more likely to have been arrested as juveniles (not including the arrest for being a runaway(Kaufman, J. G.; Widom, C. S. 1999). A study in Canada shows that the longer unaccompanied youth experience homelessness, the higher the probability of committing a crime; and further, in addition to being homeless, the lack of financial assistance from the state also increases the likelihood of youth being involved in violent crime(Baron, S.W. 2008).
Family residential stability is highly associated with educational success of children and youth(Aaronson, D. 2000) and conversely, homelessness contributes to poor educational outcomes for children and youth. Homeless children and youth are significantly more likely to report grade retention than their never-homeless counterparts. Former homeless children attendedan average of 4.2 schools since kindergarten, while children who never experienced homelessness attended an average of 3.1 schools. An estimated 39 percent of sheltered homeless children missed more than one week of school in the past three months and changed school from two to five times in the last 12 months. Absenteeism and school mobility are among the major mechanisms that impact school success for children living in homeless families and for unaccompanied youth. Across age levels, homelessness impacts academic achievement and homeless children’s reading, spelling, and mathematics scores are more often below grade level, compared with housed children). Almost half of sheltered homeless children merit a special education evaluation. Yet, less than 23 percent of those with any disability had ever received special education evaluation or special education services. Runaway and homeless youth are much less likely to complete high school, compared with those without runaway or homeless experiences.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
There are many efforts to solve some problems about street children. Some common perspectives may give consequences to us.
Analysis of Solutions:
Street children are a huge problem and any solution, even if it is not good, it will at least push forward to solve this problem. ESCWA has developed good solutions which are:
- To understand better the situation of street children through research in the following areas:
1.1 Quantitative data at national level to assess the magnitude of the problem. The statistics need to be disaggregated by sex and age.
1.2 Qualitative and quantitative research to examine the root causes that put girls and boys at risk, among them street children. This research will need to examine the link between poverty, inequality, exploitation, violence and exclusion
1.3 Qualitative research to examine the everyday live of the street girls and boys and the attitudes of society and the government towards them.
1.4 Policy level research examining the effectiveness of existing policies, planning and legislation and institutional arrangements and budgetary allocation targeting street children.
- To shift the approach to street children from legalistic to preventive, protective and rehabilitative interventions, through a focus on:
2.1 Root causes and not only on symptoms
2.2 The economic and not only the social sector
2.3 Mainstreaming as well as specific institutions and actions for street children
2.4 The rights of street children as citizens and not as charity cases or delinquents 16
2.5 Street children not only as victims but also as citizens with the agency to participate in decisions which target them.
- To enforce and monitor all international and national commitment to children
As we saw in the factors and impatcs of this problem, there are many view to grasp street children’s problems. They can not utilize from social possibilities of the environment. This life process make them insensitive and we need to be responsible about this important issue.
Aaronson, D. 2000. A Note on the Benefits of Homeownership. Journal of Urban Economics 47: 356-369.
Amnesty International Annual Report, 1999
Baron, S. W. 2008. Street Youth, Unemployment, and Crime: Is It That Simple? Using General Strain Theory to Untangle the Relationship. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice 50(4): 399-434.
Beasley, Rob. “On the Streets,” Amnesty Magazine. April 1999. Ibid. Ibid. Alston, Philip. “Hardship in the Midst of Plenty,” The Progress of Nations , 1998, p. 29. “U.S. Poor are among World’s Poorest,” The New York Times , August 14, 1999 . Alston, Philip. P. 29. Ibid. p. 31. Ibid.
Covenant Housing Institute, C. H. 2009. Youth in Crisis. New York: Covenant Housing Institute.
Creuziger, Clementing G. K. (1997) Russia’s Unwanted Children: A Cultural Anthropological Study of Marginalized Children in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Childhood A Global Journal of Child Research 4:343-358.
Kaufman, J. G.; Widom, C. S. 1999. Childhood Victimization, Running Away, and Delinquency. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 36(4): 347-370.
Pavao, J.; Alvarez, J.; Baumrind, N.; Induni, M.; Kimerling, R. 2007. Intimate Partner Violence and Housing Instability. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 32(2): 143-146.
Powers, J. L.; Eckenrode, J.; Jaklitsch, B. 1990. Maltreatment among Runaway and Homeless Youth. Child Abuse and Neglect 14: 87-98
Rukmana, D. 2008. Where the Homeless Children and Youth Come From: A Study of the Residential Origins of the Homeless in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Children and Youth Services Review 30(9): 1009-1021.
The United States Conference of Mayors. 2007. Hunger and Homeless Survey: A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America’s Cities, a 23-City Survey, December 2007. Washington DC: The United States Conference of Mayors.
Victor, Christina 1999: Chapter 10, Homeless Children: Problems and Needs.
Whitbeck, L. B.; Simons, R. L. 1990. Life on the Streets – the Victimization of Runaway and Homeless Adolescents. Youth & Society 22(1): 108-125.
Williams, R. and Avebury, K. (Eds.). 1995). A Place in Mind: Commissioning and providing mental health services for people who are homeless. London. HMSO.