Background on Street Children 


Children in Peril

Children turn to the street for a variety of reasons. In many cases, increasing urbanization and industrialization have disrupted rural Thai families, forcing separation of children and parents. Poverty often forces children and young adults to migrate to the urban centers in search of work to provide income for their family. Many of these children come from troubled homes, where parents are experiencing marital difficulties or where parents have beaten or emotionally abused them. Some are abandoned; others have been orphaned or deceived into leaving their families. Some are simply living with families in such poor conditions that they decide they are better off on their own.


The Family Unit

The family, (father, mother and children), is often considered the social unit that provides stability to children's lives. Maintenance of this family unit is very important in protecting the well being of the child. It is especially important to create or maintain a good relationship between parents and children in high-risk families such as those who are poor, living in slums and single parent families. The situation is particularly dire for families in which the woman is the head of the household because gender imbalance and lack of economic opportunity put pressure on the child to contribute to the family income.

Often due to the forces of poverty, urban migration and responsibility to family, children are physically removed from the family unit. Efforts should therefore concentrate on finding channels to reintegrate these children into their families whenever possible. Often however, circumstances dictate that this is impossible and other sources of love and caring traditionally provided by the immediate family must be sought for the child. This can take the form of extended family, support groups or social services, as street kids find their own means of support and love. This must be respected and people working with these children must be careful not to disrupt the child's existing support group.

Street kids without a family, are considered in greater risk than those with family because the option for them to ultimately return to their family does not exist. It is necessary to find other means of supporting and caring for these children. It is therefore necessary to establish a network of organizations and people to provide the assistance and support these children need.


Street Kids and their Problems

Street kids face a number of serious problems. They struggle to survive which means finding food, clothing and shelter. Often they feel the need to avoid the authorities as opposed to turning to them for help. These children lack the access to basic necessities from family, society, the economy, as well as basic health services. They often don't have the education and basic skills necessary to deal with the risk factors and various problems facing them in their environment.


HIV/AIDS Infection

Street kids are often reported as being at higher risk for HIV infection for many reasons. They often do not have access as basic services including sexual and health education and therefore lack the skills necessary for effective HIV prevention. Their environment often forces them into risky behavior including drug use to cope with their difficult situation and commercial sex as their only means to survive. This increases the likelihood of infection to a critical level.


Child Prostitution

Street kids are especially prone to face the lure of child prostitution. Despite strong reluctance, young girls and boys living and/or working on the streets of urban centers enter sexual service in response to poverty and a growing consumerism in the country. A survey conducted in Pattaya revealed that ninety percent of street kids between the ages of five and eighteen years sold their services to foreign tourists by passing as vendors in beer bars, entertainment venues and A-Go-Go bars. They received a payment of Bt300 to Bt500 for their services.

Commercial sex is often the only option or at least the best option to survive for the many children in Thailand faced with the constant peril and threat of life the street.

Assistance for Street Kids

It is difficult to reach street kids because they are not in school or the traditional family setting. The freedom of the street has become a way of life for them. Therefore, institutionalizing such children is not the most effective means of helping them. It does not respect that they have had to adapt their way of living to suit the environment of the street and instead imposes society's view of a normal upbringing on those who have been deprived of just that. Any attempts to reach street kids therefore must be done on their terms.

Projects aiming to support street kids should provide understanding and compassion in dealing with youth problems and conditions. The improvement in the street kids' quality of life cannot be improved in a short period since it is not easy to mend the wounds in the hearts and souls of these youths.

The problems of street youth will need to be addressed at their roots; poverty, social and economic change, and family disruption. The problems of street children are complex. It should therefore be stressed that no single intervention alone will be effective. What is needed is a program, which targets the many different aspects of the problem and considers solutions from the perspective of the children themselves.

(Source: Street Kids International)



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