How much do you know about ‘street children’?

The lives of street children are highly complex and subject to much attention. This constant focus from the media, charities and in global politics would lead you to assume that the intricacies of their lives would be well understood by the majority. However, mass understanding of street children are distorted by a number of myths and misconceptions.

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From my reading so far it seems that the difficulties faced in helping street children lie in the lack of clarification as to which children actually fall into the category of ‘street children’, especially in the global arena. But how can international policies be put in place when every country and organisation has a different conception of these children? And how can a globally agreed definition be reached when the challenges faced by each countries street connected children are spatially and culturally specific. In which case how can one definition or categorisation ever be helpful on a global scale? And what are the alternatives?

These misunderstandings, the varying definitions and the language used in describing ‘street children’ are what I will be exploring during my placement with StreetInvest and through my dissertation.

Here are some common assumptions on ‘street children’, but which, if any are true?

Street children are children who live on the street

True…as many street children do live on the streets, BUT the term also includes children who work but do not live on the street.

Street children only exist in developing countries

False…Street children are present in all countries, including the developed world.  The United States Census reports the number of street children in the United States is approximately 1.3 million. Closer to home, in the UK, street children are more commonly known as runaways or detached youth. The Children’s Society estimates that 100,000 children under the age of sixteen run away from home or care every year in the UK.

Street Children don’t have any family

True/False…Again, this is somewhat true; some street children maintain relationships with their family whereas others break all contact and some children do not have any family at all. Many children move between the streets and their family homes for a variety of reasons.

There are millions of street children around the world

Well, no one really knows…UNICEF estimated there were 100 million street children in 2005. However, it is not known how many children worldwide depend on the streets for their survival as their lack of permanent location and the varying definitions makes it difficult to gain accurate data on numbers.

Working with StreetInvest

Last Friday I met with the StreetInvest team and discussed ideas on what I can get up during placement. The meeting was hugely exciting with Felix (Director of Programmes) and Hugo (Project Manager) offering suggestions on how I can best explore these ideas and offering help in setting up interviews with various organisations, as well as providing me with a mountain of reading! Dates have been set for over the summer, beginning this Friday and I can’t wait to get started!

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