Cheli Buriel
Graduate Student
Georgetown University



March 11, 2002 


Street Children

Not many people give a second or even first thought to street children, and the violence they encounter on a daily basis.  People tend not to notice homeless, orphaned and runaway children on the streets as they drive or walk by.  We may see children walking aimlessly around, performing dangerous stunts on the streets, walking up and down the streets asking for money, rummaging through garbage dumps for food, or even lying asleep in alleys.  These street children, sometimes referred to as “niños del calle,” or “at-risk minors”, are rarely given attention.  Granted, these children receive national and international attention in terms of education, health and poverty.  There is, however, an important deficiency in preventing the abuse and violent murder of these children.

 There is a certain irony in the fact that many of these children run away from their homes to escape the abuse and violence they encounter there.  Unfortunately, once these children begin their lives on the streets, the abuse and violence continues - their struggle for survival persists.   
More emphasis needs to be placed upon unwanted pregnancies, which lead to the abuse and neglect of children.  Furthermore, it is important to take into account orphans who experience violence from foster parents.  These and other forms of family discord or neglect result in children running away from their homes, embarking on even harsher lives on the streets.  

Street children generally resort to or, rather, are coerced into dealing drugs, performing dangerous street acts, prostituting themselves, stealing, or any number of other detrimental actions in order to survive.  According to the Human Rights Watch street children all over the world, particularly in Latin America, have been subjected to abuse and violence by police.  Many of these children are jailed due to homelessness and stealing,  and police officials have been said to force jailed girls into prostitution or rape them in exchange for their release.  In addition, some officers believe that street children have information about abuses previously committed by the police; therefore some believe that the police lock up these children in order to threaten them not to divulge such information.  Human Rights Watch has noted that “establishing police accountability is further hampered by the fact that the street children often have no recourse but to complain directly to police about police abuses.”

Overall, living and working on the streets is a daily reality for children left orphaned or neglected by family and friends.  These children are forced to fend for themselves, unfortunately leading to physical weaknesses, illness,  even death.  However, there are some fortunate cases where children are able to conquer all the obstacles before them as they live on the streets.  

According to the Casa Alianza organization, one such child from El Salvador by the name of Rutilio was fortunate and strong enough to change his life.  Rutilio lived on the streets of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, before he turned his life around.  However, Rutilio realizes that even though he was one of the lucky children to escape street life, the situations children are put through that lead them to live on the streets are undeserved.  “I tell you, I might not know math, but I’m not stupid.  Things just don’t add up.  Something is really wrong, and it seems like as things get worse all around, there will be more kids like me. There will be more angry parents, more hurting kids, more kids being killed.  I’m glad I’m off the street now.  The street is nowhere for a kid, but neither are many homes.  Something’s got to change.  Something.” 

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