Background on Street Children
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, (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 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.
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.
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.
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