Street children accumulate numerous experiences of violence from an early age but their high risk of exposure to multiple abuses is consistently overlooked in policy development and service delivery for street children.
This is one of the findings highlighted in a report on street children and violence by Sarah Thomas de Benitez, a Social Policy PhD student at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), LSE, in collaboration with Dr Anita Schrader, Department of Geography at LSE, for the Consortium for Street Children (CSC). The report was launched this week (Tuesday 20 November) at the UK Houses of Parliament.
The State of the World's Street Children: Violence is the first comprehensive global report to highlight street children's exposure to violence and aims to promote a better understanding of street children's lives and encourage policy-makers, activists, community leaders and service providers to take effective actions to prevent and reduce violence experienced by street children.
The research found that street children experience multiple forms of violence through their life, usually starting in the home and continuing on to the streets and institutions charged with protecting them. Among its key findings are that:
Street children accumulate numerous experiences of violence from an early age and in a range of environments. Their high risk of exposure to multiple abuses is consistently overlooked in policy development and service delivery for street children.
Street children's experiences in countries across the world are strikingly similar, including those in rich countries with child protection systems alongside children in poorer countries which have weaker support structures
Understanding street children's exposure and responses to violence is key to developing integrated preventive and protective policies and services which nurture children's resilience
Twenty-five years after street children first made the international headlines, governments around the world continue to use violent tactics with street children, which contravene their rights, exacerbate their experiences of violence and scapegoat them and their families
Civil society approaches have matured during this period, introducing inclusive methods of supporting children, families and communities to reduce the risks of violence in street children's inter-connected environments.
The report makes six central recommendations:
Put children at the centre. Policy makers, community leaders and service providers must work to secure a social protection system with a wide variety of options for supporting street and other children who have experienced abuses and created a variety of coping strategies
Support families to create violence-free households. Public policies need to prepare and support people for parenting and ban all violence in the home. Safe houses are needed and so are services which help families create supportive home environments
Invest in connected communities. Investment is needed to develop community-based organisations, and linkages between them in poor neighbourhoods is fundamental to reducing local violence. Schools should be inclusive, affordable and violence-free
Ensure state protection and respect for children. A culture of respect for children must be introduced and sustained in institutional services and public spaces. Adequate training is required for police and staff at all levels of the juvenile justice and welfare systems. A national Ombudsperson for children should pursue and publicise reports of state violence against children in detention, care and public spaces
Create an inclusive society through tackling poverty and inequality. Poverty and inequality in wider society need to be addressed to reduce violence and prevent children from needing to work or survive on the streets
Strengthen research. An international body should be charged with coordinating and improving the availability of country-level data associated with street children and risks of violence. Mechanisms for hearing children's voices should be resourced to research and make recommendations about street children and violence
Sarah Thomas de Benitez said: 'This report explains how street children accumulate a range of experiences of violence, from an early age. No single recommendation will prevent children from experiencing violence or protect street children who have already experienced violence from further abuse. Effective strategies must address the wider environmental system, of family relationships, community and society within which each child develops and with which
he or she interacts. Prevention and protection require far-sighted policy-making with adequate financial and human resources for community support and effective service delivery.'
Dr Gareth Jones, Department of Geography at LSE, spoke at the launch of the report State of the World's Street Children. Introduced by Russell Brown MP, Dr Jones' presentation was attended by around 80 MPs, Lords and ambassadors.
Dr Jones said: 'This report points out that domestic violence is a common event in the life stories of street children. An important taboo is being challenged here - governments collect data on domestic violence poorly and many NGOs are reluctant to get involved in domestic issues. This report however builds - through the ecological model - on violence in the home and argues for understanding violence to the individual child.
'Violence at home, through community to street, if it is to be tackled needs to be addressed holistically. Zero tolerance should not be a sound bite to justify violence against young people but a means to articulate the unacceptability of violence against children wherever they are and by whosoever is the perpetrator. I urge everyone to read this Report, to contemplate its findings and to circulate it widely.'
Sarah Thomas de Benitez, LSE, 020 7955 6951 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Anita Schrader, LSE and co-author of key chapter 3 'Violence in the Home', on 020 7955 7592 or email email@example.com
Gareth Jones, LSE, on 020 7955 7610, email firstname.lastname@example.org
23 November 2007