What is a street child?

For many of us, we take family and social stability for granted. Many of us are fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads. Many of us do not have to worry about how or when our next meal will come, and take for granted space, silence to think and access to opportunity.

However, not everyone is this fortunate. There are more than hundred million children in the world who are homeless. One million live in the United States. Street Children, one of Childhood USA’s target groups, are amongst the most vulnerable in our population.

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.” They come from all walks of life, from all around the world. A multitude of factors contribute to the global rise of street children, push factors including: poverty, violence, neglect, abuse and peer pressure. Life on the streets open up and expose these children to a world of drug addiction, sexual abused and exploitation, labor exploitation, involvement in criminal activities, and violence by police and criminal gangs. Odds are stacked against them, they being exposed to the elements, having unreliable access to food, lack of education and medical treatment and care. Addiction, abuse and illness are high, as is vulnerability.

"Since 2011, thanks to resolution 16/12 of the human rights council and a study by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, street children are back on the international agenda. While this has provided some space for recognizing the link between children's connections to the street, socio-economic inequalities and states' public policies, recommendations about how to tackle this complex issue remain vague and inconsistent.”*

We at Childhood USA hope you join us in this global call for action to prioritize the rights for street children and call for greater accountability for governments and policy makers world wide to prioritize the most vulnerable of our population, our children. The interrelation between policy, practice and implementation is very strong and essential in addressing the factors that contribute to and enable the existence and rise of homelessness and street children. No child should have to suffer these circumstances. Together we can make a difference for children not only to survive, but thrive.

Ashlee Thomas
Columnist, Childhood USA

* Source: Poretti, Michele. "Are We Losing Sight of Street Children?" Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 04 Nov. 2013. Web. 27 July 2014.