HOW TO HELP STREET CHILDREN

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No child should live, work or beg on the street and everyone wants to do something to help. The question is what can you do when you come across children on the street?    The secret is to inform yourself about what is really going on, what your actions do, and about what can be done, you need to understand that:

  •  Street Children are:
    • Traumatised children.   These are not naughty children,  criminals , nor dangerous individuals.  Many Street children do exhibit behavioural problems, aggression and substance abuse issues, but these are coping mechanisms of children who are in a great deal of psychological pain because Street Children are traumatised children,  abandoned, orphaned, chronically neglected, physically, sexually and mentally abused children, children who are exploited by others to beg, for commercial exploitation and other things.  Every street child we know always wants to be back with his family, it’s just that they can’t because of the family situation or because being vulnerable they are being exploited and used by others.
    • Legally in need of care and protection.  The Children’s act defines any child living, working or begging on the street as a child in need of care and protection.
    • Children:   Yes under all that aggression, pleading and dirt, is a child.   And we need to find that child again.
  • The Impact of giving money to children who beg:  You might believe that giving food, clothes or money to a child who begs is showing them you care, that they are cared for and that you are encouraging and helping them to return home.   The truth is that street children see it very differently, when you give a child money or any support on the street :
    •  You confirm and affirm begging and street life.  The child understands you to be saying that begging is the right thing to do,  that they do not need to go to school, go to a project for help or even face up to the reason why they are on the street.   You are allowing them to fail, you are enabling them to stay on the street and you are destroying their families, education and future.
    • You make children a commodity to be exploited:  All children begging on the street are controlled or exploited by an older street youth, dysfunctional parent or other adult,  even a drug dealer or other criminal   Giving money to children who beg makes children vulnerable to exploitation and street life, you are also affirm, in the mind of the child, that those exploiting them are doing the right thing.
    • You help to groome children for peodophiles:  By rewarding children who beg you are teaching them to approach adults for money .   Cape Town has an extensive peodophile problem constantly in the shadows trying to prey on street children.
    •  You buy the Children Drugs:    Whatever you give to a child has a value on the street and can be sold and traded for drugs.    We have shops selling groceries to tourists for street children, drug dealers accepting goods for drugs, restaurant staff ordering and paying R30 for school shoes from street children, and so on.  No matter the story its all going on drugs.
  • There is no reason for them to be on the street, In Cape Town we have the services they need.   The Homestead does not charge children to use our facilities and also does not turn children away.
  • You can make a direct impact on the street child by:
    • Building positive relationships with children on the street, they need our care , concern and protection.
    • Refering them to the Homestead and other projects set up to help them. Even the police are forced by law to help them.
    • Do not ignore them, report street children to your nearest police station or to your local Department of Social Development office. By law DSD and SAPS must respond to any children living, working or begging on the street.  Even church people and social workers by law have to report street children.
    • Do not move or take these children anywhere. Only designated social workers and the police may remove a child without parental consent. The Homestead can only accept a child if they self-refer (and then we immediately have to get a form 36 from the police) or if a police officer or a designated social worker admits them with the correct paperwork.
    • Helping projects to give children the care, education and development they deserve. Support professional and comprehensive intervention services for street children.
    • Reporting  any child on the street to us:  Info@homestead.org.za and we will try and follow up.

Homestead NGO, Cape Town, South Africa, June 2011 Photos taken by Frank Rohrig

 

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