About street-connected children

Definitions

We use the term ‘street-connected children’ but there are many terms to describe the children we work with and for. Homeless youth/children, street children, runaways, children in street situations are just some of them.

We use ‘street-connected children’ to define children who:

  1. depend on the streets to live and/or work, either on their own, or with other children or family members; and
  2. have strong connections to public spaces (e.g. streets, markets, parks, and bus/train stations) and for whom the street plays a vital role in their everyday lives and identities. This wider group of children includes children who do not live or work on the street but regularly accompany other children or family members in the streets.

In other words, ‘street-connected children’ are children who depend on the streets for their survival – whether they live on the streets, work on the streets, have support networks on the streets, or a combination of the three.

It may seem obvious, but we need to restate this fact: No child should ever be harmed by those who are supposed to protect them.

However, street-connected children face harm on a daily basis from adults, including government officials, other children, and even their own families. They are often also denied access to education and healthcare, and can face jail when trying to survive poverty and hunger.

We believe the most important step to creating a better world for street-connected children is to ensure they are able to access all the opportunities, services and rights they are owed as outlined in the Child Rights Convention – which almost every country in the world has signed and ratified.

Street-connected children have the same rights as all other children.  Because street children are often denied access to these rights, they are susceptible to abuse and exploitation. This is compounded when they are unable to make complaints or seek justice for this abuse.

That is why we exist – to bring together organisations working for and with street-connected children, and provide a platform to amplify their voices and make sure the world listens.

We have found that many countries have attempted strategies that in fact cause more harm and create more problems than they solve:

Street sweeps/round-ups

“They treat us as animals, they can raid us and lock us up in cell for three weeks and they would only give us dry bread for food”

  • It is common for local authorities to make it appear as though there are no street-connected children in their area by forcibly rounding them up and either transporting them to a secluded location, or imprisoning them.
  • This is especially common before big diplomatic, sporting and cultural events, including the Olympics and World Cup.
  • The children are often left in insecure environments and separated from friends, family and their livelihoods.
  • Leaving children unprotected in a remote location or jailing them can leave them vulnerable to further mistreatment.
  • CSC is against using arrest and detention as a means to solve the issues facing street-connected children.  It leaves children vulnerable abuse to abuse in prison, may leave them with a criminal record that makes leaving the streets more difficult, or may incur a fine that they do not have the means to pay. Juvenile justice measures around the world are universal in condemning the use of detention as a means for solving housing, poverty and unemployment problems.

Orphanages/Institutions

“Better to live in the streets than some government institutions”

  • Some have advocated that any shelter is better than none, believing that forcing street-connected children into orphanages or institutions will rehabilitate them to leave the streets.
  • However these institutions often do not have adequate qualifications or capacity to provide the necessary care for street-connected children, with many cases of physical, mental and sexual abuse reported.
  • Institutions that forcibly prevent children from leaving are de facto detention facilities, but often are outside the justice system for review. This is a serious cause for concern.

These “solutions” do not consider what is in the best interests of the children – the overriding principle of the Child Rights Convention, which all governments must follow. Consortium for Street Children advocates that each and every street child must be viewed first and foremost as a person with rights, dignity and the ability to contribute to deciding what is in their interest.