Why are there street children?
The UN defines street children as ‘boys and girls for whom the street has become their home and/or source of livelihood and who are inadequately protected or supervised by responsible adults.’ At Toybox, we work with ‘street-involved children’ - including street living, street working and other vulnerable children at high risk of going to live on the streets.
How many are there?
Exact numbers of street children are very hard to determine. The transient nature of life on the streets makes counting children pretty much impossible. In the early 90s, UNICEF estimated that there could be as many as 100 million street-involved children globally. Through our partners on the ground, we know there are many hundreds of thousands of street children in Latin America, but still many more children suffering at home in silence.
Where do they come from?
There are numerous reasons why children end up on the streets. These factors include both “push” factors, such as poverty or violence within the home; and “pull” factors such as the lure of apparent freedom and friendship with other children on the streets. Street-involved children have often faced neglect and abuse, school failure, loss of parents and peer pressure.
What kind of life do they lead?
Life on the streets has many specific problems for the children: drug addiction, sexual exploitation and abuse, work exploitation, involvement in criminal activities, and violence by police, other adults and rival gangs. Most street children do not attend school, and those who do often perform poorly and are at high risk of dropping out. Street work includes odd-jobs, petty trading and services. There is a high risk of exploitation and abuse. Many children also make a living through illegal activities such as begging, selling drugs, petty theft, or being pulled into the sex trade.
“Being poor is in itself a health hazard; worse, however, is being urban and poor. Much worse is being poor, urban, and a child. But worst of all is being a street child in an urban environment.” Ximena de la Barra, senior urban advisor, UNICEF (UN Commission on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment no. 14, August 2000 – UN doc E/C.12/2000/4)