Imagine being an 8-year-old little boy or girl in the United States. Picture waiting for your parents to pick you from school and being excited about arriving home to watch your favorite cartoon. Remember the feeling of being tucked into bed by your parents and the comfort of soft linen and cotton on your skin. For many people, this is a life that is quite normal and does not register anything out of the ordinary. However, for more than 2.5 million children in America, the same encompasses a life of which they can only dream because they are homeless. The state of homelessness among children remains persistent not only in the United States, but the world at large. Street children experience neglect of the highest level and remain forgotten even as countries continue to pass laws promoting the well-being of children. It is interesting that the issue of street children is among the ones that do not have clear cut solutions when compared to other problems in the society. The problem of street children is one that is solvable. However, legislators are not paying attention and most members of the society remain ignorant about its existence. The lack of attention endangers the lives of street children as they face prostitution, child pornography, substance abuse, malnutrition, and PTSD from all the victimization they face (Crombach & Elbert 2). The presence of these implications draws attention to the need for government-facilitated policies that will safeguard the well-being of these children.
Today, there are more than 2.5 children living in the streets of the United States. Research indicates that at least one in every thirty children in the US is facing a persistent state of homeless (Newsweek 1). The history of street children in the country dates back to the 1950s during the economic depression. However, the number was very low in that era because people were more family-oriented than it is the case today. The percentage of street children skyrocketed over the years and has reached its peak in this century. The government attributes the exponential growth to many factors that include economic burdens, immigration, and lack of family values in today's society. Currently, there are only two solutions towards this problem; foster care and shelters. The two are the only identifiable solutions that street children today have. It is ironic that these aspects promote the presence of street children as opposed to eradicating it. For instance, most children who are placed in the foster care system end up on the streets. They consist of runaways who are unable to preserve the ill-treatment they receive while in these homes (Gvnet.com 1). More so, shelters are the least conducive places for children and do not facilitate a permanent solution. The lack of legal stipulations is the same in places such as India, Bangladesh, and Africa. These societies ignore the persistent state of homelessness among children and do not have any aspects that could help with the eradication process. For instance, the country government in Kenya merely rounds up street children and transports them to other cities or nearby countries that are far away (Embleton 4). The lack of solutions is thus apparent and leads to more endangerment of these children.
According to Lewis Aptekar, the modern term for street children is CSS that stands for Children in Street Situations. The term is important in explaining that these children are more than the streets (Aptekar 1). In defining them, individuals should not merely focus on their homelessness but take note of the situations they face on a daily basis. The situations are part of the reason behind their being on the streets. Hence, calling them Children in Street Situations draws attention to the big picture involving the circumstances they face. The generic definition of a street child would be someone who does not have a home. However, by looking at the situation, one can move from this simpleton mode of description and ponder on the factors that give rise to street children. Jeffery Jensen Arnett puts context into this definition by asserting that adolescents face immense problems when they are transitioning into adulthood. They are prone to challenges that make it difficult for them to relate to their family members (Rollins 23). The result is an increased case of runaways who end up in the streets. The case is especially prevalent among children who are from unstable families (Jensen 12). They constitute a majority of children on the streets as they leave their homes in search of a peace of mind (Jensen 13). Of course, there other factors that can explain the situations of these children. For instance, parents may experience extreme poverty even in country like the USA that is considered rich (Tandjung 2). They may not have access to employment opportunities and thus end up being homeless together with their children.
As the government and society keeps on ignoring the problem of street children, their lives become more endangered because of the ills they face while living on the streets. Street children encounter problems regarding substance abuse. More than 2 out of every 5 child under CSS is likely to abuse drugs at some point in their lives (Embleton 1726). It seems like this situation is inevitable for more of these children who struggle with life on the streets and use drugs as a coping mechanism. The ideology of group dynamics among these children is also cognizant to their problems with substance abuse as they influence one another in the long-run. Embleton, L., et al. confirmed this by conducting a study that sought to decipher substance abuse among street children in Kenya. The study used a group of 146 children living in the streets of Eldoret that is a city in Kenya. The participants gave narratives that indicated the persistent nature of drug abuse (Embleton et al. 3). Most claimed addiction to bhang (marijuana), alcohol, glue, and many other substances that they come across on a frequent basis. The research indicated that over 83% of these children have addiction issues that require immediate attention (Embleton et al. 3). The research showcased the immense problem of substance abuse among street children. The case is not any different from what children in countries such as India and Bangladesh undergo. The children have become addicted to substances like nicotine that prevent them from functioning normally (Narayan 10). They face a problem of substance abuse but the lack of attention in the society makes it difficult for them to acquire the help they need. Hence, this indicates how much these children are rotting away on the street because of failed systems. Their situations are a direct result of the lack of attention and urgency into this matter.
Additionally, it is imperative to note the prevalence of prostitution among children living in the streets. They engage in sexual acts out of desperation and turn it into an occupation. Most people would find this situation unbelievable especially when they think about their innocent young children whom they shelter against such vices. However, this is a reality for many street children who gain explore to the world of adults as soon as they become homeless. They have to survive through any means necessary and consider prostitution as a viable option (Mona & Sharma 10). The case is especially serious among adolescents who live on the streets. The sex trade often seems like the only option these children as they become more desperate by the day. It is unfortunate that there are a number of adults who are willing to engage in prostitution with children and pay a lot to access them. The same leads to exploitation and issues such as child trafficking especially in Asia.
Kamruzzaman and Abdul Hakim provide overwhelming evidence about the exposure of street children to the illicit sex trade. They perform a study to test the levels of prostitution among children in South Asia, more specifically countries like Bangladesh. The research indicated several issues such as divorce and unstable families, homelessness, unemployment and peer pressure as motivators towards sex trade among children. While some left their homes to be part of the sex trade, others had no option because they so it as their only source of income. For instance, 96% of the children interviews cited that they engaged in sex with multiple partners as a way to increase their income (Kamruzzaman & Hakim 2). Moreover, many cited hat they do not care about the perception of members of the society about engagement in prostitution. The children are also subject to sexual exploitation because some of them are brainwashed, raped, and unwillingly lured into the sexual trade by adults are hungry for money (Mona & Sharma 9). Most people prefer to exploit children because of their innocence. Besides, street children lack any form of defense and are vulnerable for exploitation. For instance, they do not have parents or guardians who can protect them from the ills of the world.
It is, therefore, interesting to note that while there are very strict laws about aspects like child pornography and prostitution involving a minor in developing countries, the rules do not seem to apply to these defenseless children. Indeed, legislators and law enforces continue to ignore the plight of these children even as they face problems that would raise an uproar had it involved children who have homes. The lack of attention is what perpetuates crimes such as child sex and prostitution among street children. It is ironic that the world champions for the rights of children but has always remained silent when such aspects occur among those who do not have anyone to speak on their behalf; street children.
Furthermore, the lives of street children are at risk because of the health implications of living the way they do. Most children in the United States do not have to worry about what they will eat tomorrow. The same is not the case for millions of children whose worry is whether or not they will have a meal, their safety, and so on. The lack of a healthy diet makes street children prone to diseases that could endanger their lives (Waon et al. 320). Many suffer from malnutrition since they do not have access to the traditional three meals every day. Many go for a long time without having anything healthy to eat (Timmer & Urquiza 44). In addition to this, street children experience health problems because of their living conditions. They sleep in cardboards or tents outside even in cold seasons such as winter.
Notwithstanding this plight of street children that is quite serious, governments remain adamant about enforcing policies that will completely eradicate the problem. In the United States, the government chooses to create an even bigger problem in the form of the foster care system while other countries merely ignore the problem. The situation is even worse among members of the society who are not calling for solutions. In a nutshell, the world is silent as these children face deplorable conditions that threaten their well-being. The problem needs to be addressed now if the world wants to save the future generation. The number of street children is increasing by the day as families become more unstable and economic conditions deteriorate. The lack of a solution means that the future of many children will be disrupted. In the end, everyone will be affected by a society that is unable to care for its future generations.
The situation had led researchers like Lewis Aptekar to propose solutions that will highly impact the empowerment and eventual eradication of Children with Street Situations. The governments ought to create needs-based programs that work closely with these street children in a person-centered approach. The programs need to approach eve...
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