The proliferation of street children in the case of Bolivia can be broken down into two main sections:
- Poor households that migrate to the city in the first instance with the hope of prospering, and once there they realise that were better off where they came from and then migrate again leaving behind that they can not mantain. Abandoned children.
- Disintegrated families, due to many interrelated factors such as poverty, alcoholism or drug addiction. There the child is «an element» on whom to pour frustrations: beatings, rape, abuse,... He may also become an «generator» of income. Therefore: theft, prostitution, forced labor,... Children escape those contexts.
This situation should be taken into consideration in a country with limited financial resources allocated to social assistance. So, the future of these children becomes exponentially complicated due to several factors:
- Society perceives the boy as a threat of violence, theft, assault... and it deals with this threat «accordingly».
- The authorities act against this sector of the population with impunity, attacking them, and in most cases, exploiting them for their own benefit instead of giving them protection.
- The use of drugs to alleviate hunger, cold, pain and disease exponentially reduces the scope for any kind of rapprochement and protection.
- The lack of any kind of education leads to a level of insecurity and helplessness on the boy that steer him away even more from any positive thinking that could motivate him to try ans ans break the spiral.
Therefore, talking about a solution for street children means to thoroughly review how to meet their basic needs in a global way from two distinct fronts:
- Political agreement to support and eradicate the problem:
- Aid programs for families at risk of social exclusion by the official agencies concerned
- Aid programs for hosting organizations by the relevant official agencies concerned
- Awareness programs regarding the most vulnerable and unprotected social group
- Rigorous and long-term projects with different phases
- Vocational training centers
- Job pool: job reinsertion
Maria Eugenia, Social Worker«In this job every day is an adventure and a place where you understand that life
goes by and that everything we do bears fruit. In the children we see their growth in all areas. It is a challenge, a battle. You feel like throwin in the towel.
But it is also a privilege, all at the same time»
The implementation of any plan to help street children has to go through a Project that has solid long-term viability and that must include, in chronological order, the different phases of action to be effective at solving the lives of these kids. You must be very aware that in many cases these kids have not known any other habitat that the street, so the solution begins with their personal conviction to leave the street.
This is a vital issue since we must be aware that if we fail to permeate the consciousness of the kid and make him feel the advantage that he should leave that way of life for himself, nothing will come out of it. That is, motivation should be internally generated. The road ahead is very tough, and if he is not convinced and motivated, he'll shortly quit and leave the shelter to go back to the streets. This is the starting point:
The kid must be innerly convinced that he may have a future away from the streets
From this premise all phases of action develop. They are:
Street Children Support Team
The aid program must always be started from the root of the problem, going to areas where these kids survive to try a first contact and trust-based approach. As we have said many times, these kids feel a total distrust towards any social groups, be they authotities, individuals or organizations. Since birth they have been all emotional bonds with others betrayed, whether family or strangers, their current situation is the result of all this and therefore dealing with anyone always arises as a certain possibility of a new abuse, whatever it can turn out to be.
For this reason, the approach to places where they survive must always be considered as a long-term task to achieve their main objective [rescuing as many children as possible to welcome them to different Homes] and all movements must be close to them, listening to them and giving them constant tokens of affection with an added value that they can associate to: medicines, food, health care,... ultimately, trust.
Lucho, 13«Here they told us: «If your family learns that one day you left and when you grow up they see you steal, what would they say? That now you are a professional thief? Stay here and study and when you grow up you can show your parents you quit the streets. You can show them your degree and tell them you graduated. That is what should be told to them!” I'd never thought that way. That really motivated me to keep on going”.
From these actions you must let action itself shape itself and get results. It results in generating a real interest on the children to leave the streets. This is the moment when you can move on to the next phase:
- Temporary Shelter Structures
- These shelters, day or night, are temporary Homes. Centers the kids can start to visit and that offer them different areas of interest:
- Security: they spend the night away from violence and impunity offered by the streets
- Hygiene: they can clean up and get clean clothes, shoes, etc.
- Health: access to medicines and care by qualified personnel
- Food: hot food offered
- Leisure: they have access to leisure activities with teachers and classmates
- Education: talks aimed at motivating them to take the plunge and leave the streets permanently
From this stage on, many of them stay as mere visitors with no intention of breaking with the freedom of the streets, drugs, lack of discipline and rules... But some of them will be willing and motivated to move on to the next level:
There is a first foster home that focuses on a single priority: drug addiction. It's not possible to accommodate children with drug problems and insert them next to others who have already been there for some time and run the risk of falling back into this problem. What's more, daily dynamics and staff approach and training are very specific for these kids. Once they have overcome the problems of drug addiction and / or alcoholism is when the time comes to renew their commitment to excel off the streets. Without their effects many of them don't think the future isso sure or promising, their insecurities, fears and distrusts drag them to the easiest way out: the streets.
But those who get beyond this stage already join the stable foster homes where they will live with colleagues during the remaining years until the Homes guardianship ceases to be effective and they get reintegrated into society, when they turn 18. There are different approaches and thus different homes, segregated by sex, age and / or training that make a boy/girl move house as s/he surpasses stages.
At the homes, the main lines of action are focused on:
- Medical / health care: healing or monitoring chronic diseases or conditions that have been «growing» in the streets. As well as deparasiting, disinfecting and instilling role models as to personal hygiene.
- Training on values: through educators the home must inculcate moral values, education, living together... they have never had the opportunity to experience. At the same time it is important that they practice discipline, perseverance, order, punctuality and all kinds of personal basic tools they will need in the future and are unknown to them.
- Academic education: an education is important to them so they can have some opportunity in the future. Obviously the older kids are, the harder this stage becomes. But it is indispensable if we want to reach the ultimate goal, which is none other than getting the kids to survive on their own once they reintegrate into society.
When the boys are already immersed in their foster homes and are coming to 14, it is important to start training them according to their abilities, so that in a few years they can work in a paid job that allows them to have a future.
At this point the present stage coexists with the following one:
Training centers should be as demanding and realistic as possible as at this stage the child will depend on whether or not he will be able to function on his own and be self-sufficient. In many cases, this tool will be a job as a gardener, waiter, carpenter, welder... because for many and varied reasons he may not have enough ability to cope with a demanding degree. But the possibility of qualified professional opportunities must also be contemplated for those who have the ability to cope with their studies.
It is a fact that job insecurity is due to an oversupply of certain jobs and at the same time, these offers are often not too rigourous, with no job contracts or very precarious and temporary. It is a devastating experience, not uncommon to see street boys who left the Homes with a job but because of the market situation, were steered towards the streets again.
Here is when the last phase of action starts:
To be able to maintain the boys's project viability (only effort and courage have allowed them to overcome every stage, to be now involved again in society), it is equally important to place every effort in creating a department focused on getting jobs for these boys and girls and also on providing them with support and monitoring them at least during the first years after their social reintegration.