AMONG STREET CHILDREN*
Teresita L. Silva
CHILDHOPE ASIA PHILIPPINES
As the developing countries of Asia join the bandwagon of industrialization, the
economic gains all too often come with social losses. Millions of street children who
work and/or live are the sad witnesses to this development dilemma. They spend their
childhood in especially difficult circumstances of poverty, in families where father and
mother have separated, or where the family has finally broken up. When parents resort to
child abuse or maltreatment, the child runs away from home. In some cases, which may
even be seen as ―ideal‖, the parents discuss their economic situation with their children,
asking the elder children help earn a living.
Is there any hope that these children can ever leave the streets and start anew? The
answer is resounding Yes!
CHILDHOPE ASIA Philippines conducted case studies for which Ms. Paz Cruz,
CHILDHOPE Research Consultant and Board member, interviewed ten (10) youth who
have succeeded in leaving the streets—these cases studies have been published under the
title Life after the Streets. In another Philippines study on resiliency titled A Study
among the Street Children, Dr. Conrado Banaag’s staff interviewed 25 street children.
These young people are actively transforming their lives. They personify a certain quality
called ―resilience‖ and can effectively serve as role models for other street children and
youth who face similar difficult circumstances.
The Concept of Resiliency
Resiliency is the capacity to do well in spite of difficult circumstances. That implies
capabilities of both resistance against destruction and positive construction. The
following phenomena in the field of developmental psychopathology illustrate resilience:
Good outcomes despite high-risk status, for example, overcoming cumulated stressors
Sustaining competence under threat; and
Recovering from trauma, such as child abuse.
Resiliency literature points out that resilience is an end result of some intervention and
Components of Resilience
From an action point of view, there are two components:
the capacity to resist destruction,
i.e., for a person to protect his/her integrity under difficult circumstances;
the capacity for positive construction
(i.e. to build a positive life) in spite of difficult circumstances.
Hence, some children/youth appear to be undaunted, untainted, or invulnerable. Even
when confronted with difficult circumstances, they refuse to succumb or surrender.
Although their family circumstances have caused them to suffer the difficulties of
working on the street, they remain untainted by vices and actively resist the temptation of
―easy money‖ at the cost of one’s virtue.
Other children/youth manifest more ―human‖ characteristics as they are overpowered by
material needs and fall into vices. As they become transformed into the persons who are
wiser for the experience, they in effect emerge from the ashes of destruction.
Factors Leading to Resilience
Action people are interested in learning about the factors fostering resilience. This
capacity called resilience requires a mental shift that focuses on strengths rather than on
weaknesses, on health or positive adaptation rather than pathology. The following
contributory factors have been identified from the literature:
Unconditional acceptance of the child by another person (Vanistendael)
Religion, faith and spirituality (Losel; Gardinier; Osborn; Bradford)
Inputs should include the recognition and protection of the rights of the child, such as
education, freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom to express opinions.
The life stories of ten former street children illustrated three factors leading to resilience,
Good foundation of values during early childhood (Lito, Butch, Ricky, Dominic,
Trust in God (Ricky, Dominic, Edwin, Butch, August, Fernando)
Self-esteem (Edgar, Ricky, Leila, Butch, Gally)
In reaching out to street children and youth, concerned agencies offered that
unconditional acceptance so necessary to the awakening and development of their
resilient capacities. Moreover, support of these children’s education and protection of
their rights gave them a lift from their difficult circumstances and provided the impetus
for successful personal information.
Some personal and social resources that can be viewed as protective factors are the
A stable emotional relationship with at least one parent or other caregiver;
Social support from the inside and outside the family: relatives, neighbors, teachers,
An emotionally positive, open, guiding, and norm-oriented educational climate;
Social models that encourage constructive coping (e.g. parents, siblings, teachers,
Balance of social responsibilities and achievement demands (e.g., care for relatives,
Cognitive competence (e.g, at least average level of intelligence, communication
skills, empathy, realistic planning);
temperament characteristics that favor effective coping (e.g., flexibility, approach
orientation, reflection and impulse control, strong interpersonal skills, good verbal
experience of self-efficacy, internal locus of control, corresponding self-confidence,
and a positive self-concept;
the way in which the individual deals with stressors, particularly by actively trying to
the experience of sense, structure, and meaning in one’s own development (e.g., faith,
religion, ideology, sense of coherence).
A protective factor differentiates between adapted and maladapted groups who are both
exposed to a comparably high risk, according to studies in resilience. Protective factors and
risk factors interact with one another on both individual and microsocial level, as well as on
and between other levels of influence, in a widening arc.
In a study in resilience among 25 street children, Dr. Conrado Banaag and associates
identified 19 individual traits. These traits are not mutually exclusive; rather they interplay
with one another in a manner that empower the street children subjects. The subjects in the
study showed an average of 11 individual resiliency traits; the minimum number was 7
Individual Resiliency Factors
Sense of direction/mission Self-monitoring
Street survival skills Intellectual capacity
Social problem solving skills Sense of morality
Adaptive distancing Religion/ faith in God
Hobby/outlet/creativity Easy temperament/ disposition
Leadership skills Recognition of past mistakes
Realistic appraisals of environment Humor
Self-control ―Pakikisama‖ or smooth interpersonal
A sense of direction or mission and self-efficacy are the two most common individual
traits identified in the subjects, who affirmed that a sense of direction gave them aw
purpose or a life task that guided the decisions they made.
Closely related to this is the sense of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is identified as ―a
positive perception of one’s competence to perform certain tasks‖ (Bandura, 1977). It
includes the faith an individual has in his ability to control his life and his environment in
positive ways. Self-efficacy gives that feeling of self-empowerment and self-worth that
an individual needs to attain one’s goals. Some studies suggest that a belief and action go
hand in hand. Adolescents who believe they can resist drugs are more likely to do so.
Almost all the subjects in this study constantly demonstrated their sense of self-efficacy
through repeated and effective daily behavior aimed at gaining a livelihood in the streets.
Many of the subjects demonstrated social problem solving skills and street survival
skills as important factors in their resiliency. Both sets of skills are important—they
allow the street children to live in the street and survive by learning how to beg, steal, lie,
cheat, evade, arrest, fight, use inhalants or marijuana to forget their hunger or feel
momentarily empowered in their fantasies, or even prostitute themselves. Although such
as behavior is anti-social by the usual social norms, these have survival values for street
children. The resilient street children obviously have other personality traits that help
them abandon survival behavior and redirect their lives towards more constructive
directions. Rutter and Werner (1993) noted that ―problem solving skills reinforce one’s
sense of competence and self-esteem.‖ Street-survival skills, on the other hand, often
involve self-damaging behavior that heightens the risk of failure in a street child who is
Adaptive distancing is an important positive trait that helps the street children effect a
healthy separation from the immediate problems in their lives. The children with this trait
manage to separate themselves physically and/or psychologically from the risk factors in
the environment. Many street children interviewed did not identify with their
dysfunctional parents and found unhealthy role models elsewhere. They did not feel
responsible for their parents’ problem. Some even felt compassionate but detached
towards their parents.
Developing a hobby or a creative talent such as sports, singing, dancing, writing, and
painting serves as coping mechanism through which children can distance themselves
from problems and at the same time foster in them feelings of competence, self-worth,
identity, and a feeling of worth in the community. In some instances, expression of
creative talents has served as ―therapy‖ or self-healing by allowing the expression of
Leadership skills and altruism are attributed that are ―others-oriented‖, allowing
individuals to actively help other people. Both attributes give a sense of purpose, worth,
and self-empowerment by allowing the children to go beyond themselves and try to
achieve goals that benefit others. Through such actions, the street children make a place
for themselves in their various communities.
In some cases they act as ―kuya‖ (older brother) and ―ate‖ (older sister) for the young
ones. They become role models, using their knowledge and experience to help others just
as they themselves were helped in the past by others. Altruism is also understood as the
desire and willingness to alleviate the condition of others, such as their families as well as
other street children.
In order to act for themselves or for others, the street children need a realistic view of
their environment, that is, a good capacity to appraise their situation. Knowing what is a
possible and attainable in their situations allows them to act on opportunities helpful for
their long-term goals. They know what they cannot change in their life situations. Many
of the subjects learned to accept their dysfunctional parents for what they were.
Empathy is another attribute that is others-oriented. It refers to the ability of street
children to ―feel‖ for others, to be able to understand what others go through. It is usually
empathy that leads to a manifestation of altruism.
Self-monitoring, the ability to regularly assess one’s self and situation, makes for
resiliency through the constant awareness of where one stands in his or her life. By
monitoring life events and their effects on the self, the street child is able to appraise his
or her environment realistically, see progress or regression in growth, and gauge
potentials and limitations.
Self-control refers to the ability of individuals to control impulses and disengage from
temptations and pressures. It involves an internal locus of control, thereby reinforcing the
sense of self-efficacy. Obviously, the youngsters who are able to say ‖no‖ to drugs, street
brawls, and early, risky sexual experimentations and exploitations practice adequate self-
Intellectual capacity was roughly gauged in this study through academic achievement
and the responses shown by the subjects during the interviews—school achievements
reflect their notable degree of intelligence. These subjects also place higher premium on
formal education, some street children find a firm anchor in life. By believing in the
value of education, some street children find a firm anchor that keeps them away from
Like the intellectual capacity, a sense of morality also offers a guide for decision-making
among the street children. Using the sense of moral rightness as guide, these street
children are able to stay away from the dangers and temptations of street life such as the
use of illegal drugs and the use of sex for money. A sense of morality reinforces self-
control and contributes to feelings of self-efficacy.
Religion or faith in God is manifested by respondents who cite prayer and hearing Mass
as a support that helps them through difficulties. Many express a belief that faith has the
power to help them stay away from trouble. Although many admit that they go to Mass
irregularly, their behavior shows that they have a personal relationship with God.
A good number of the 25 subjects appeared to possess easy temperaments and
dispositions, allowing them to maintain positive relationships especially with other
people in positions to help them. As cited by Werner & Smith, 1982, and easy
temperament aids in fostering good interpersonal relationships, thus allowing other
people to treat them in a more positive manner. These positive relationships reinforce the
children’s sense of self-worth and at the same time open more opportunities for self-
Some respondents show the capacity to recognize mistakes they had made in the past.
Instead of succumbing to these or simply accepting them, these street children used the
knowledge brought on by experiences to construct better, more positive lives. They are
generally more altruistic and emphatic, using their experiences to help younger children
to avoid making the same mistakes.
As in the Rutter and Werner 1993 study on resiliency, a few street children exhibit a
sense of humor even in the face of adversity. Humor allows an individual to cope with
situations that threaten to overwhelm him or her. This ability to laugh at oneself and see
the lighter side of situations can often help in dealing with the stressful events in one’s
life. Humor reduces tension and restores perspective.
The last resiliency factor identified among the street children in the study is
“pakikisama”. This is a common Filipino trait that can be loosely defined as ―going
along with the group to avoid confrontations‖. It is important for the street children to
connect to a good group that can offer them access to positive involvement.
Family Protective Factors
Individual traits are important but not sufficient in the development of resiliency.
Resiliency involves a process of interaction between individual and environmental
factors, not fixed attributes or traits within an individual. This observation is especially
true among children and adolescents. Young people need elements in their environment
that will reinforce as well as protect the individual traits that help them resilient.
In the study conducted by Dr. Banaag, a search for family as well as community and peer
protective factors was made. The interplays between their individual traits and the
protective factors in their environment have made for better adaptive outcomes among
the subjects of the study.
Family Protective Factors
Having family responsibilities
Warm, positive relations with adults
Positive adult modeling
Extended family support
Close relationship with siblings
Family support for youth’s goals
Family traditions and rituals
Positive family environment / bonds
High parental expectations
The most commonly cited was that of having family responsibilities. This factor includes
not only household chores and taking care of younger siblings, but also earning extra
income for the impoverished family. In many instances, this sense of responsibility
implies firm and clear parental discipline. Bleuler (1978) pointed out that ― that youth
whose families need them to do tasks will feel that they have something to contribute and
feel valued and empowered.‖
A warm, positive relationship with an adult fosters feelings of importance in street
children, making them feel that someone does care for them—and older person to whom
they can run for support or advice, and who can serve as an adult model.
The majority of respondents see early parental modeling as a guiding factor even if the
parent is no longer involved with the life of the street child at present. Many foster
parents serve as their role models, showing that modeling need not be limited to a parent
alone but can include any adult the street child looks up to and imitates. Such parent-
substitutes are common in the lives of the street children.
About one-half of the groups feel great affection from members of their extended
families. An aunt, an uncle, or a grandparent towards whom a street child feels particular
affinity and affection often becomes the role-model for the child in place of a parent,
especially if an affectionate bond has not adequately been established with the siblings.
The siblings of street children may be street children themselves, and the shared
experience of living on the streets often causes siblings to turn to one another. Such
bonding obviously provides a protective elementsfor each one.
Family traditions and rituals include the celebration of achievements, social, and family
gatherings, meals together, and hearing Mass together. These rituals and traditions serve
as powerful protective factors, even in the face of family dysfunction and chaos. The
family sees itself as somehow enduring even if it is not always cohesive. These traditions
and rituals are often acts as recognition of one’s place or position in the world and
enhance a sense of belonging to a group. No matter what else is going on, if the family
can eat together on special days or hear mass together on Sunday, the children will
internalize a routine around which they build their identity. The family praying together
also enhances the child’s religious affiliations and faith in God, which many of the street
children regard as important in facing up to diversity.
Although many street children have infrequent contact or involvement with their families,
some still feel that their families continue to be supportive of them in their struggle to
attain their goals. Some remember their parents’ high expectations of them.
Supportiveness of the child’s abilities and high parental expectations enhance the
child’s resiliency because the child’s confidence in his abilities grows. Parents who tell a
child not to take drugs can influence the child not to abuse substances. Similarly, parents
who have a high but realistic expectation of their children’s performance in school can
inspire their children to strive well. Support and believe in the children appear to be
positive protective factors as long as these are realistic. Parents whose expectations are
beyond the children’s abilities may instill feelings of inadequacy and failure in the
Not surprisingly, only a few respondents have positive family environments and bonding.
Indeed, many street children are out in the streets to escape their dysfunctional families.
As in the case of parental modeling, a number of street children experience positive
family environments with substitute families. Some of the subjects, however, can still
derive strength from memories of when their families were still intact.
Community Protective Factors
The protective elements identified in the peer group, school, and community at large are
not exclusive of one another. There is a constant interplay among the three categories of
resiliency factors. For example, leadership skills are fostered and bolstered by family
support but need a community that allows positive involvement as a protective element
that can sustain these skills.
Opportunities for involvement
Caring and supportive school
Agency Care Intervention is the single factor consistently mentioned by all subjects as
having a positive effect in their lives--they attribute their resiliency largely to the
protective influence of their respective agency. According to the street children, the Street
Educators, Child Care and Social Workers serve as ―foster parents‖ form whom they
receive the warmth, care and support that their own families are unable to provide
effectively and continuously, The care giver not only serve as a surrogate family and
home for many of the subjects; It also allows continuing opportunities for peer, school,
and community involvements, thereby enhancing the competencies of the street children
Opportunities for involvement with the community—such as street theater, working
as junior health educators, teaching martial arts, participating in extra-curricular activities
– for positive personal growth and instill feelings of adequacy and self-worth, as well as
sense of belonging to a community.
A caring and supportive school climate and reasonable expectations from the school with
regard to their performance generally come from a particular teacher or one’s peers in the
school setting with whom there is a bond of friendship. Both factors foster feelings of
self-efficacy and a belief in their own power to attain their dreams and aspirations. Being
in school also gives a sense of purpose and provides a structure and guidance in the lives
of these children.
The street children’s individual resiliency traits make up a major part of their personality.
Interventions should not focus on supplying what is deficient in their families but should
equally emphasize efforts at enhancing the children’s resiliency. There is a need for
further study on how helping agencies, the schools, and the rest of the street children’s
community could interact in a manner that can facilitate the development and
strengthening of resilient traits among street children. These interactive interventions may
give the street children greater chances of leaving the streets behind and start living
Integration in the Mainstream Community Life
Resilience is richer than more coping.
Resilience involves achieving competence against the odds, or achieving exceptional
levels of competence.
The means by which an individual avoids the potential consequences of adversity
must be socially acceptable.
―Thus despite the failure of society to meet the social and economic needs of all its
members, it nevertheless demands that those suffering the worst deprivations may only
free themselves from such deprivations through socially legitimate means. This requires
resilient people to broadly accept the mores of their society and strive to survive on its
terms.‖ (Children Woldwide, p.13)
Resiliency among former street children/youth is best manifested by their integration into
mainstream community life.
Formal Education. In the cases presented in Life after the Streets, all ten youth have
sought re-entry into the mainstream through formal education, with the Philippine
Educational Placement Test (PEPT) virtually serving as a bridge to enable to street
children to catch up with the grade levels appropriate to their chronological age and
Two have completed four-year courses in college—in Customs Administration and in
Education. Three others have started college studies in Psychology, Architecture, and
Marine Transportation. Two have completed two-year courses—General Radio
Communication Operator and Computer Science. Two high school graduates plan to
continue their studies—one in Education, the other in Automotive Mechanics.
Employment. After graduation from secondary school, or with some collegiate units or,
ideally, a college degree, these young people entered the world of ―normal‖
employment—as government worker, a waiter, a jeepney owner-operator and driver, and
7 as street educators.
Normal Life. ―Children need to live normal lives—with their parents, in a house with
water and electricity‖, said one youth now off the streets.
Ricky has tried to do this for his own brothers and mother as soon as he graduated from
high school. He rented a small room, sent his brother to school, and acted as his guardian.
He also used his savings from selling newspapers and his allowance as Junior Street
Educator to support his older brother’s schooling. They place a premium on education
and encourage their children to study well.
Leila’s mother ran away from home because she felt unable to cope with caring for a sick
husband and bringing up seven children. Leila has also experienced a joyful family
reunion as her mother turned up at Leila’s boarding house after four years of absence.
Butch started his new family about five years ago. He now has two children; the older
boy is enrolled in TOPS’ Prep School. Butch has built a small house for his in-laws on
government property, after steadily settling aside some amount from his salary to buy the
building materials. His aunt and her husband remain an inspiration for Butch, who
remembers their loving relationship and the high value they place on education.
Dominic loves his parents and siblings, who are his inspiration. He ran away to seek his
own fortune to lessen the burden on his parents. Now that he is reunited with his family,
he shares his earnings so that his only sister can go to school.
Edwin also ran away from home because he could no longer endure his father’s beatings.
However, he is learning to forgive his parents. Now that his father is sick, Edwin feels
that he must assume the role of primary breadwinner.
Edgar, however, has no idea where he can find his mother or his father. Likewise, August
has yet to reunite with his mother or his father. Likewise, August has yet to reunite with
his mother who left for her second husband’s hometown.
Among the youth who have shared their stories, Lito and Fernando have experienced a
more stable childhood. Like the other urban poor families, Fernando’s family lived in a
congested area, while Lito’s family lived as squatters, experienced relocation, then was
resettled at a reclamation area. However, this family has managed to build a small house
on a private lot outside the city. Both Fernando and Lito boast of good communication
among family members, such that they can openly discuss problems. Their parents have
no vices, and have always exerted efforts to send their children to school.
The Importance of Family Development
For the Protection of Children
At this point we would also like to share with you pertinent findings of another
CHILDHOPE ASIA study titled Learning from Families in the Edge. This study was
conducted in 1994-1995 in collaboration with CHILDHOPE ASIA’s partners in four
Asian cities-Jakarta, Manila, Ho Chi Minh, and Culcutta. In Culcutta, our partners was
How did the street children view their parents?
The majority of children who now work and live on the street saw their parents as part of
the problem. Being on the streets is part of these children’s coping mechanism in relation
to the difficulties they are experiencing or have experienced at home; 7 out of 10
perceived their work as a solution because the street offered respite from their stressful
Street children who remained with their families saw their work as part of their parent’s
coping mechanism to enable the family to survive.
This study identified and developed risk indicators from the characteristics and
experiences of families of street children. Specifically, we wanted to learn how families
with children on the street managed to avoid pushing their children to still higher degrees
of stress, such as already experienced by children of the street with no longer had any
contact with their families.
FAMILIES OF STREET CHILDREN
1. Migration status
Migration status (Manila)
Place of migration (Jakarta)
Frequent displacement (HCM)
Migration and displacement (Culcutta)
2. Household life cycle and size
Not limited to large households
3. Parent’s employment status
Father not always working
4. Household composition
One or two parents
5. Education and age at marriage
Uneducated parents, married early (Jakarta, Culcutta)
Living in deprived neighborhood with poor access to services (HCM,
With evidence of illness
7. Level of poverty
Living below the poverty line
Unemployment among young adult males
Dependency on a daily, unpredictable wage
Insecurity of shelter
State of indebtedness
ADDITIONAL RISK INDICATORS
FAMILIES OF CHILDREN WHO WORK
AND LIVE ON THE STREET
Diminished sense of belonging
Separation from one or both parents due to:
o a parent’s death
o separation of husband and wife
o parent’s remarriage or extramarital affair
Lack of caring adult support
Incomplete household, plus
Low level of cooperation
Presence of conflict
Being forced to work on the street to support undesirable habits like
Other mediating factors
RECOMMENDED POSITIVE FACTORS IN STRENGTHENING FAMILY
1. The availability of familial support in emergency situations in places outside Jakarta,
compared to the lack of such support within Jakarta, illustrates the need to discourage
migration to this capital city. Movements of people cannot be prevented except by
development of the countryside and regional centers.
2. Parents should find time to interact with the children and encourage their participation
in matters affecting them and the whole family. They should aim at developing the
children’s sense of belonging so that children will not easily think of leaving home
and breaking their ties with their parents and siblings.
3. The facts that 5 out of six fathers were employed should be taken as a positive factor.
If the mothers were better educated or trained in some employable skill, they could
probably work to earn additional income for the family. In this way, the children may
not need to spend time on the street to earn a living.
1. The presence of caring adults is the first positive factor for keeping the family
intact even in the face of economic crises or other stressful experiences. Ideally,
both father and mother should be the foremost caring adults for their children.
2. One important aspect of caring is communication—the parents should be able to
communicate to the children, that they love them and wish to attend to all their
basic needs, even if oftentimes their financial situation does not allow them to eat
regularly or have better shelter. Setting aside some time for sharing and
communication, has proven effective in the case of the brothers Raymund and
Jun, and Ronaldo, who continue to go home regularly to their parents.
3. Equally important is that parents show their authority and exercise discipline over
their children in ways that respect their children as persons with innate human
dignity. In the two families of children on the street under consideration, note that
their parents have spared the rod, yet have not spoiled their children.
4. Moreover, in these families, husband and wife have shown respect and mutual
support for each other, there is no incidence of violent quarrels.
Misunderstandings, which are bound to happen between partners, are discussed
reasonably, such that the children are not exposed to ugly scenes which may result
in emotional trauma among the children.
5. Now that they have accepted that the children’s work does make a difference to
the family’s daily survival, the attitude of these parents of those street children
who go home, is that such that work can serve to train the children in
responsibility. However, they do acknowledge the children’s contribution—the
children’s earnings at least meet their own requirements at school. The parents
likewise manifest their appreciation that the children have already shown their
concern for the family’s standard of living, and are demonstrating their
responsibility toward improving this through their work on the street.
6. One or both parents of these children working on the streets, when faced with a
crisis in the family, have adopted a positive attitude which enables to them to
cope well and take the necessary steps to meet emergency or crisis situations.
7. One or both parents must be a pillar of strength in the family. Otherwise the
children will necessarily suffer the consequences when their own parents are
unable to cope with the problems that come along. It is remarkable that despite
the disadvantages of the mother’s young age at marriage, poor educational
attainment of both parents, and irregular source of income, the families of
Ronaldo and the brothers Jun and Raymond have shown much resilience.
8. The couple attributes their family’s integrity to their mutual support. In addition
to this, Ronaldo’s parents acknowledge a spiritual source of strength as their
participation in a Catholic spiritual movement nurtures their faith and trust in
9. The couple of at least one helping agency, it is also acknowledged, is helping
these families meet some of their goals for their children, particularly in the area
of educational scholarship and credit assistance for livelihood projects.
HO CHI MINH
1. Resettlement of families can bring positive results and benefits to poor families if
the resettlement process us planned carefully, with due consideration given to
meeting the basic needs of families in the new resettlement area, particularly to
provide opportunities for livelihood.
2. The presence of all members of the family, and the family harmony, facilitated
by family life education, can ensure more caring support for children from parents
3. Urban development and on site upgrading of low income areas, with particular
attention to basic infrastructure and utilities contribute to more wholesome
community life, in which families are able to interact towards a community
support system which can benefit the whole community.
4. Working street children clearly contribute to the income of the household. Without
their contribution, families of street children, who are living at survival level, will
not able to eat like other poor families of the inner city.
5. The poor hardly qualify for credit, even with reasonable rated of interest. Social
credit programs, which have been effective in many countries, including Vietnam,
can contribute significantly to more financially stable families, requiring less
dependence on their children for income.
1. The street children of Culcutta, in almost all cases, are already a split over of the
city’s slums and pavements. Their families are ill-equiped to compete with other
poor migrants for limited shelter, employment and other services in the city.
Rural-to-urban migration can only be regulated when the countryside is
developed. In the meantime, migrant families need to be organized and assisted to
improve their access to whatever basic social services are available in the city.
2. Women are the children’s remaining bond to the family. Therefore, these single
parents or sole breadwinners should receive priority in terms of shelter, health
facilities, and livelihood opportunities. Save a mother, save her children.
3. As in all four countries, Culcutta’s poor families clearly need development
assistance covering education and economics, as well as strengthening of family
A Glimmer of Hope
The lives of these former street children and youth demonstrate that indeed;
… One of God’s great gifts to these children is this
talent, almost imperceptible ―ability to recover‖ which we
―Seeds of resilience‖, a latent capacity to respond and
recover… need careful and loving nurture if they are to
grow and flower. Patient affirmation, the provision of
opportunities for small successes, followed by bigger
successes with constant support, and the conveying of
confidence and hope on the part of the caretaker are
essential elements in the recovery process.‖ (St. Mary
Rose McGeady, ―Child Resilience‖. (Children
Basic research in resilience provides a glimmer of hope for street
children in especially difficult circumstances and for the agencies and
individuals who work with them and their families, through the
Even in diverse circumstances, street children can develop into relatively healthy,
competent, and contented adults.
Focus attention on people’s strengths rather than weaknesses, in order to reduce the
threat of self-fulfilling prophecies, and to avoid burnout, cynicism and resignation.
When building on people’s strengths, remember that street children have rights and
need to be helped as well as to be needed.
Set priorities. Given limited resources, intensify personal care and social resources for
the most deprived street children to increase their chance for resilience.
In the planning and evaluation of specific projects, examine which parts of a program
really promote resilience.
We are warned there is no such thing as invulnerability. (Losel), and therefore, street
children should not be burdened too much (Vanistendael) lest they reach the breaking
Resilience is not a panacea, nor can it never be substitute for social policy. Helping
children and families to survive poverty and social deprivation should not mean
diminution of efforts to eliminate the root causes of poverty and social inequity.
An eminent Filipino psychiatrist, Dr. Ma. Lourdes Arellano-Carandang has a specifif
advice regarding caregivers:
Caregivers can be helped to develop and maintain an
attitude of transcendence and basic optimism while
retaining their sense of hope. To foster this attitude,
caregivers must have a belief or conviction that will
guide their work. The center can adopt a philosophy
(a vision-mission statement) shared by everyone. In the
case of street children, caregivers, must hold
unswerving belief in their resiliency, that even in the
worst conditions, they have inner resources that can
surface and affirm an inner spirit. This spirit or core lies
underneath the layers of hurt, anger and depression and
can be uncovered. (Carandang, 1996)
That street children can successfully transform their lives given the
nurturance needed to water their own seeds of resilience is a very
hopeful sign. More hopeful still, when former street children
themselves can urge children in similar circumstances to follow these
―Ten Signposts along the Road to Successful Personal
Transformation‖ which have been sifted from their personal
experiences and insights.