What Are Street Children?

Jillian O Keeffe

Street children spend part or all of their time living on the street. They may be orphans or unable to live at home with their families. Street kids earn money and keep themselves alive by doing any jobs they can find, which could even be prostitution or scavenging. Street children are at risk of malnutrition, assault, and disease. They are found all over the world in developing and developed countries.

Street children often fend for themselves.
Street children often fend for themselves.

These kids may be orphans with no one to look after them or separated from their families after a war or natural disaster. Others are runaways, escaping from violence or neglect. Some run away from children's institutions. A family may also have kicked out a child for reasons such as pregnancy or homosexuality.

Homeless children are often at risk of malnutrition and disease.
Homeless children are often at risk of malnutrition and disease.

Another reason for kids to be on the street is that their families may not have enough food or space to give them. Street children may visit home regularly but spend the nights outside. Sometimes, the entire family is homeless.

Street children typically deal with depression and feelings of rejection.
Street children typically deal with depression and feelings of rejection.

Children in this situation may earn a living through stealing, selling items to the public, or begging. Some kids sell their bodies for sex or deal drugs. Scavenging for food or for items to sell is another way the kids fend for themselves. They may also provide services such as shoe shining or earn money by entertaining the public through music or similar work.

Without a safe place to live with sanitary facilities, these kids are at risk of assault and infectious disease. If they have trouble earning money, they cannot pay for food or for warm clothes. School uniforms and supplies also generally cost money, so even if the kids want an education, they may not be able to afford the basic equipment necessary. The stress of living a precarious existence can also lead to mental health issues and substance abuse.

Living as a group may be safer than living alone, so kids may band together and watch out for each other. In many countries, charities and governmental organizations run homes for street children. The centers usually offer regular food, a place to sleep, and education. Despite these benefits, children may avoid going there because they are afraid of abuse by the other children or adults at the center. The kids may also prefer to earn money outside on the streets.

According to the World Health Organization, street children are found in both developed and developing countries. Most of the street kids in developed countries are over the age of 12. In developing countries, the children tend to be even younger.

In some cases, the entire family of street children are homeless.
In some cases, the entire family of street children are homeless.

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Discussion Comments


@Ana1234 - But it shouldn't be. If humanity can be united by anything it should be the care and guardianship of the next generation.

I've seen poor children in Africa who were given more understanding and charity by their impoverished community than some street kids get treated in Europe and America.


@irontoenail - Well, just like older people have their own circumstances, I'm sure there are individual stories effecting the children who live on the street as well. Foster care or orphanages are usually their only other option, and those aren't exactly always paragons of compassion and virtue. Sometimes living on the street is the safer option for these kids.


It always blows me away that there are wealthy countries in the world where this still happens to children. I mean, I know it's almost impossible to completely get older people off the street, because in some cases you're dealing with mental illness and drug abuse and, short of forcing them into housing, there's not much to be done.

But with street kids, it is just wrong to let them stay on the streets. Wrong on every level. It's immoral, for one thing, but it also leads to crime and further poverty, so it's bad even on a selfish level for the wider community.

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