Building with Bamboo

Understanding Street-Connected Children and their Family Background

Published 05/17/2017 By Martha Espinoza

The life story of Lina*, a street-connected girl who I met few years ago when trying to find her lost mother, reminded me about the importance of taking into account the family background of each child to efficiently support them and increase their chances of developing a resilient identity.

Understanding Lina’s Family Background

Lina used to live on the streets. I was impressed by her when I first met her, she was joyful and graceful despite the fact that at her short age, 9 years-old, she had to sing or sell candies on the streets to earn a living. Lina had gone through tough experiences, experiences that any child shouldn’t face at such a young age. I realised that she had deep emotional needs –few minutes after we met she was very keen on giving me a hug. Although I was uncomfortable with her behaviour, I tried to understand her.

When I kindly asked her to take me to her place to meet her family, she told that she didn’t have any, she was currently living with some friends. She told me that she didn’t know the whereabouts of her mother, also she didn’t know the reasons why she left her. To my surprise, Lina spoke highly of her mother, as if she were the best mom in the world, that troubled me because I couldn’t reconcile the idea of a mother abandoning her child.

The family that was currently hosting Lina were the parents of a young girl that worked on the streets of a disadvantage community in Guayaquil. This disadvantaged community is formed by Afro-Ecuadorians and Colombian citizens forcibly displaced from their lands by illegal armed groups. Lina’s mother was part of this community, she became pregnant when she was 12 years-old.

When we finally found Lina’s mother, after looking out for her for two years, I was shocked. She was a young woman that seems to be more afraid and fragile than her own daughter, Lina. I realised that I didn’t have any right to judge this woman, because I didn’t know her at all.

The relationship between resilience and family background

This experience reminded me that behind every street-connected child there are memories packed with struggles, strong emotional bonds and a challenging family background that can’t be erased or replaced as they are fundamental part of the child.

Therefore, our work shouldn’t be only focused on providing street-connected children with food and shelter but also emotional and psychological support. It is required, then, to think about the emotional needs and bonds that connect children with their past, present and future. Moreover, in order to break negative cycles it is important to take into account their family background. By doing so, we will be able to transform their challenging past into a testimony of hope and resilience.

*name changed to protect identity.