Children living and working on the streets are highly vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, addictions, and crime, and lack access to everyday essential services such as health and education. Their situation is made more difficult as a result of social perceptions of street children. Street children are frequently targeted by the police, beaten, held and charged without due process. Government policies, institutions, and communities may exclude or marginalise children on the street, and deny their basic human rights.
Children living and working on the streets require legal protection by the state, recognition of their rights, and access to public services. Reception and drop- in centres can provide an entry point to basic services, including shelter, food and health provision, education, and income generation projects. While such initiatives can help to sustain children on the street and protect them from high risk behaviours, organisations working with vulnerable children need to work towards preventative measures to reduce the numbers of children who end up homeless. Prevention begins with an assessment of the causes of family separation, identification of those most at risk, and strategies to support family and community placements.
The opinions and preferences of children already on the street must form an integral part of any strategy since the empowerment of such children is necessary to effect change in their own lives. Community reintegration services should be established where possible to provide children with an alternative to street life. All placements, such as kinship or foster care, must be regulated to ensure that they meet the needs of children and are in their best interests.
The resources in this section provide statistical and country information on the situation of children living and working on the street, assessments of their needs, and intervention examples relating to support services, care planning, and access to health and education programmes.