Historically, Children in Street Situations (CSS) were often viewed as a consequence of wider socio-economic challenges. While these factors play a role, focusing solely on them can cloud our understanding rather than aid it.
It's crucial to recognize the differences among children in terms of their family's socio-economic status. Not all children who face similar deficiencies in emotional and material support end up on the streets, and the reasons behind this are not yet fully understood. If socio-economic hardship were the only factor, cities in Latin America would be flooded with children. This suggests that other factors influence their decision to stay or leave home.
Interventions for these children typically focus on immediate needs like health care, injury treatment, and safety from harm. This is deontologically sound. However, solely focusing on ‘band-aid’ approach often lacks the depth and duration needed for effective, long-term interventions with these children, thus diminishing its impact.
To better support CSS, it's essential to analyze how they interact with their environmental elements and the city itself. Understanding the elements of street life that children rely on for survival can help refocus intervention strategies towards these elements rather than solely on the children.
Regarding the physical and temporal dimensions, CSS usually lacks a defined territory. Their gradual transition to street life is influenced by various factors, including their perception of street life and triggering events such as family violence or economic hardship. However, neither poverty nor violence alone can fully explain a child's move to the streets. The subjective experience of these factors and the child's interpretation plays a significant role in their decision. Not all children attribute the same degree to violent experiences.
There are three primary perspectives in the street versus family dynamic:
Sociocultural learning plays a vital role in the lives of children in impoverished urban areas. According to Lev Vygotsky's theory, social interactions and cultural experiences are crucial for cognitive and social development. The street serves as a setting for early socialization, where children learn and develop outside of structured group settings like those found in schools. Younger children form dyads and triads, as school children form duos and trios.
Street activities for CSS are not uniformly defined. The presence and influence of dominant individuals among the children can shape their experiences and behaviours. Without adult supervision, these figures often become role models. The street's multifunctional nature, offering access to transportation, commerce, services, and leisure, also contributes to their socialization.
The process of socialization into a subculture on the streets includes several elements:
These elements concerning the streets are not exhaustive; they are presented merely to highlight the activities that occur during the transition period when a child goes from being at home to venturing out into the street.
To be continued…