Street children is a term for children experiencing homelessness who live on the streets of a city. Homeless youth are often called street kids and street youth; the definition of street children is contested, but many practitioners and policymakers use UNICEF’s concept of boys and girls, aged under eighteen years, for whom "the street" (including unoccupied dwellings and wasteland) has become home and/or their source of livelihood, and who are inadequately protected or supervised.
Some street children, notably in more developed nations, are part of a subcategory called thrownaway children who are children that have been forced to leave home. Thrownaway children are more likely to come from working class and single parent homes. Street children are often subject to abuse, neglect, exploitation, or, in extreme cases, murder by "clean-up squads" that have been hired by local businesses or police. In Western societies, such children are sometimes treated as homeless children rather than criminals or beggars.
- 1 Definitions
- 2 Statistics and distribution
- 3 History
- 4 Causes
- 5 By country
- 6 Government and non-government responses
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Street children is used as a catch-all term, but covers children in a wide variety of circumstances and with a wide variety of characteristics. Policymakers and service providers struggle to describe and assist such a sub-population. Individual girls and boys of all ages are found living and working in public spaces, and are visible in the great majority of the world’s urban centers.
Statistics and distribution
Street children can be found in a large majority of the world's cities, with the phenomenon more prevalent in densely populated urban hubs of developing or economically unstable regions, such as countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia.
According to a report from the Consortium for Street Children, a United Kingdom-based consortium of related non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UNICEF estimated that 100 million children were growing up on urban streets around the world. Fourteen years later, in 2002, UNICEF similarly reported, "The latest estimates put the numbers of these children as high as 100 million". More recently the organization added, "The exact number of street children is impossible to quantify, but the figure almost certainly runs into tens of millions across the world. It is likely that the numbers are increasing"  The 100 million figure is still commonly cited for street children, but has no basis in fact. Similarly, it is debatable whether numbers of street children are growing globally, or whether it is the awareness of street children within societies that has grown.
The phenomenon of street children has been documented as far back as 1848. Alan Ball, in the introduction to his book on the history of abandoned children, And Now My Soul Is Hardened: Abandoned Children in Soviet Russia, 1918–1930, states:
Orphaned and abandoned children have been a source of misery from earliest times. They apparently accounted for most of the boy prostitutes in Augustan Rome and, a few centuries later, moved a church council of 442 in southern Gaul to declare: “Concerning abandoned children: there is general complaint that they are nowadays exposed more to dogs than to kindness.” In Tsarist Russia, seventeenth-century sources described destitute youths roaming the streets, and the phenomenon survived every attempt at eradication thereafter. 
In 1848, Lord Ashley referred to more than 30,000 "naked, filthy, roaming lawless and deserted children" in and around London, UK. By 1922 there were at least seven million homeless children in Russia due to the devastation from World War I and the Russian Civil War. Abandoned children formed gangs, created their own argot, and engaged in petty theft and prostitution.
The causes of this phenomenon are varied, but are often related to domestic, economic, or social disruption; including, but not limited to, poverty, breakdown of homes and/or families, political unrest, acculturation, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, domestic violence, lured away by pimps or internet predators, mental health problems, substance abuse, and sexual orientation or gender identity issues. Children may end up on the streets due to cultural factors. For example, some children in parts of Congo and Uganda are made to leave their family because they are suspected to be witches who bring bad luck upon their family. In Afghanistan, young girls who perform "honour crimes" that shame their family and/or cultural practices—like adultery (which may include rape or sexual abuse) or who refuse an arranged marriage—may be forced to leave their homes. Children may also end up on the streets due to religious factors. For example, some children in the far Northern parts of Nigeria (refer to as the almajiris) are forced to leave their homes by indenturing under a mallam (Islamic religious teacher) in order to understand the teachings of the Holy Quran. During the period of indenture, these children are forced to the streets in search for their daily livelihoods through alms begging. These children are also in most circumstances compelled to make returns from their daily proceeds to the mallam and failure to do so means severe punishment.
There are an estimated 250,000 street children in Kenya and over 60,000 in the capital Nairobi. Rapid and unsustainable urbanisation in the post-colonial period, which led to entrenched urban poverty in cities such as Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa is an underlying cause of child homelessness. Rural-urban migration broke up extended families which had previously acted as a support network, taking care of children in cases of abuse, neglect and abandonment.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has reported that glue sniffing is at the core of “street culture” in Nairobi, and that the majority of street children in the city are habitual solvent users. Research conducted by Cottrell-Boyce for the African Journal of Drug and Alcohol Studies found that glue sniffing amongst Kenyan street children was primarily functional – dulling the senses against the hardship of life on the street – but it also provided a link to the support structure of the ‘street family’ as a potent symbol of shared experience.
Bangladesh is a poor country. Almost half of its population is poor. Following this there are many street children who have to suffer. They do not go to school instead they sell things in the streets as their parents earn less money or do not work. About four million children live as street children in Bangladesh. It is estimated that there is Over 600,000 Street children living in Bangladesh, 75% of them live in the nation's capital, Dhaka. In a Country ranked 138th on the Human Development Index and where 50% of the population is living below the poverty line, these children represent the absolute lowest level in the social hierarchy. In the world's most densely populated nation. Nowadays the population in this country increased and the number of street children is also increased to four million.  
India has an estimated one million or more street children in each of the following cities: New Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai. It is more common for street children to be male and the average age is fourteen. The Republic of India is the seventh largest and second-most populated country in the world. Due to the acceleration in economic growth, an economic rift has appeared, with just over thirty-two per cent of the population living below the poverty line. Owing to unemployment, increasing rural-urban migration, the attraction of city life, and a lack of political will, India has developed one of the largest child labor forces in the world.
According to a 2007 study, there were over 170,000 street children living in Indonesia. In 2000, about 1,600 children were living on the streets of Yogyakarta. Approximately 500 of these children were girls from the ages of 4–16 years of age. Many children began living on the streets after the 1997 financial crisis in Indonesia. Girls living on the street face more difficulties than boys living on the street in Indonesia. Girls on the street are often abused by the street boys because of the patriarchal nature of the culture. "They abuse girls, refuse to acknowledge them as street children but liken them to prostitutes". Many girls become dependent on boyfriends; they receive material support in exchange for sex.
The street children in Indonesia are seen as a public nuisance. “They are detained, subjected to verbal and physical abuse, their means of livelihood (guitars for busking, goods for sale) confiscated, and some have been shot attempting to flee the police”. n
The number of street children in Pakistan is estimated to be between 1.2 million and 1.5 million, meaning that the country has one of the world's largest street children populations. Although, this number remains anecdotal since it was cited over 10 years ago. There has been no head-count or a mapping study of street children in Pakistan except in Karachi;, which were also limited to certain geographical areas. These studies show that the numbers maybe much higher now after the increasing poverty, people's displacement after the natural disasters and war on terrorism in Pakistan. It is estimated that there are over 118,000 boys living and/or working on streets just in Karachi. Past efforts have been initiated by UNICEF and other NGOs to assist children in need through various programs and rehabilitation centers;, however, the situation remains as a prominent socio-economic issue in Pakistan in the 21st century.
According to the 1998 report, "Situation of the Youth in the Philippines", there are about 1.5 million street children in the Philippines, 70% of which are boys. Street children as young as ten years old can be imprisoned alongside adults under the Vagrancy Act; in past cases, physical and sexual abuse have occurred as a result of this legislation.
According to The Street Educators’ Club, the number of street children in Vietnam has shrunk from 21,000 in 2003 to 8,000 in 2007. The number dropped from 1,507 to 113 in Hanoi and from 8,507 to 794 in Ho Chi Minh City. There are currently almost 400 humanitarian organizations and international non-governmental organizations providing help to about 15,000 Vietnamese children.
Greece’s street child activity is heavily connected with human trafficking, especially with immigrants from Albania. In 2003, street children located in state-run facilities had disappeared. The disappearance is suspected to be linked to human trafficking. The numbers have decreased in recent years and Greece has taken “legislative action to criminalize human trafficking and related crimes”, though Amnesty International reports that the problem still exists and there is a failure of government protection and justice of trafficked children.
Begging and other street activities have been outlawed in Greece since 2003, but the recent unemployment hike has increased levels of these actions.
There are few programs for displaced children in Greece, which created a street child problem in the early 2000s. Giving foster parents to special needs children is not something the Greek government has done, leading to higher numbers of physically or mentally disabled street children. There are also deterrents for working and poor parents in Greece making them more willing to force their children to the streets. For example, orphans are given financial benefits, but if they live in state-run facilities they cannot receive these benefits. For working parents to get government subsidies, they often have to have more than one child.
In an effort to increase Romania's work force, former communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu outlawed contraception and abortion in 1966. Thousands of unwanted children were placed in state orphanages where they faced terrible conditions. With the fall of Communism, many children moved onto the streets. Some were from the orphanages, while others were runaways from impoverished families. Today there are 20,000 children living on the streets while the resources for sheltering these homeless youths are severely limited. A 2000 report from the Council of Europe estimated that there were approximately 1,000 street children in the city of Bucharest. The prevalence of street children has led to a burgeoning sex tourism business in Romania, although efforts have been made to decrease the number of street children in the country. The 2001 documentary film Children Underground documents the plight of Romanian street children, in particular their struggles with malnutrition, sexual exploitation, and substance abuse.
In Russia there were about 7500 homeless street children in 2003, decreased to 4270 in 2005. By the end of 2011 the number of street children made 5266 kids. The number of Russian children that once lost their parents' support by the end of 2011 was 654,355. This includes 522,802 kids being on fostergage or adopted, and 105,688 kids in orphanages.
1,641 street children are estimated in Turkey, mainly in İstanbul. Street children are most present in the eastern part of the country. Diyarbakır is one of the eastern cities where most of Turkey's remaining street children live.
According to some estimates made in 1982 by UNICEF, there were forty million street children in Latin America, most of whom work on the streets, but they do not necessarily live on the streets . A majority of the street children in Latin America are males between the ages of 10 and 14. There are two categories of street children in Latin America: home-based and street-based. Home-based children have homes and families to return to, while street-based children do not. A majority of street children in Latin America are home-based.
The Brazilian government estimates that the number of children and adolescents in 2012 who work or sleep on the streets were approximately 23,973, based on results from the national census mandated by the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency (SDH) and the Institute for Sustainable Development (Idesp).
An “estimated two million [youth] run away from or are forced out of their homes each year” in the United States. 1.6 million youth are currently homeless. The difference in these numbers can be attributed to the temporary nature of street children in the United States, unlike the more permanent state in developing countries.
Street children in the United States tend to stay in the state, 83% do not leave their state of origin. If they leave, street children are likely to end up in large cities, notably New York City, Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco. Street children are predominantly Caucasian and female in the United States, and 42% identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).
The United States government has been making efforts since the late 1970s to accommodate this section of the population. The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 1978 made funding available for shelters and funded the National Runaway Switchboard. Other efforts include the Child Abuse and Treatment Act of 1974, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Detention Act. There has also been a decline of arrest rates in street youth, dropping in 30,000 arrests from 1998 to 2007. Instead, the authorities are referring homeless youth to state-run social service agencies.
Government and non-government responses
Responses by governments
While some governments have implemented programs to deal with street children, the general solution involves placing the children into orphanages, juvenile homes, or correctional institutions. Efforts have been made by various governments to support or partner with non-government organizations.
Public approaches to street children
There are four categories of how societies deal with street children: Correctional model, Rehabilitative model, Outreach strategies, and Preventive approach.
- The Correctional model is primarily used by governments and the police. They view children as a public nuisance and risk to security of the general public. The objective of this model would be to protect the public and help keep the kids away from a life of crime. The methods this model uses to keep the children away from the life of crime are the juvenile justice system and specific institutions.
- The Rehabilitative model is supported by churches and NGOs. The view of this model is that street children are damaged and in need of help. The objective of this model is to rehabilitate children into mainstream society. The methods used to keep children from going back to the streets are education, drug detoxification programs, and providing children with a safe family-like environment.
- The Outreach strategy is supported by street teachers, NGOs, and church organizations. This strategy views street children as oppressed individuals in need of support from their communities. The objective of the Outreach strategy is to empower the street children by providing outreach education and training to support children.
- The Preventive approach is supported by NGOs, the coalition of street children, and lobbying governments. They view street children’s poor circumstances from negative social and economic forces. In order to help street children, this approach focuses on the problems that cause children to leave their homes for the street by targeting parents’ unemployment, poor housing campaign for children’s rights.
Non-government organizations employ a wide variety of strategies to address the needs and rights of street children. One example of NGO effort is "The Street Children‘s Day", launched by Jugend Eine Welt on January 31, 2009 to highlight the situation of street children. The "Street Children's Day" has been commemorated every year since its inception in 2009.
Street children differ in age, gender, ethnicity, social class and these children have had different experiences throughout their lifetimes. UNICEF differentiates between the different types of children living on the street in three different categories: candidates for the street (street children who work and hang out on the streets), children on the streets (children who work on the street but have a home to go to at night), and children of the street (children who live on the street without family support).
Horatio Alger's book, Tattered Tom; or, The Story of a Street Arab (1871), is an early example of the appearance of street children in literature. The book follows the tale of a homeless girl who lives by her wits on the streets of New York, US. Other examples from popular fiction include Kim, from Kipling's novel of the same name, who is a street child in colonial India. Gavroche, in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, Fagin's crew of child pickpockets in Oliver Twist, a similar group of child thieves in Funke's The Thief Lord, and Sherlock Holmes' "Baker Street Irregulars" are other notable examples of the presence of street children in popular works of literature.
- Casa Alianza
- Covenant House
- Friends International
- Relational care
- Runaway youth
- Street children in the Philippines
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Street children.|
- Azad Foundation (Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan): Pakistan's Leading Non-profit working with Street Children.
- Street Children Resource Center (Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan)
- Dehleez: Pakistan's First and Only transit shelter home built specifically for Street Children.
- The Hope Foundation: Offering protection, education and healthcare to street children in Kolkata, India
- Street Children in Gimbi, Ethiopia, including documentary of a specific boy
- Streetconnect.org: A clearing house of information for and about homeless youth
- Hummingbird: a documentary about two NGOs in Brazil that work with street kids
- The Goodman Project: A foundhotographed indow ntow n Kabul, Afghanistan (June 2003).ation set up to help the street kids in India and Asia
- Street Children: Article on the Children's Rights Portal
- Street Children's Day - 31 January (in German): Day to highlight the situation of these children and young people.