Street Children — Literature Review Essay Example

The Focus of the Different Sources of Information

Media and popular culture focused on the neglect and misconception of street children by the society and governments. According to Jern (2017) street children in a Kenyan town called Kitale sleep on the cold concrete floors across the city as the society ignores them and police raids on these kids brings death. According to IRIN (2006) street children in Lebanon are victims of organised crime orchestrated by gangs and the government plays a very limited role in solving this issue of street children.

Reports for organisations explored the phenomena of homelessness and street children with a focus on their causes and consequences on children, combating the demand for drugs by street children, and protection of street children. According to Homelessness Australia (2016) and UNODC (p.17) homelessness and street children are a result of a combination of different factors such as domestic violence, single parent households, affordability of housing, economic crisis, poverty, neglect, substance abuse, and addiction to gambling. Homelessness and the problem of street children makes children vulnerable and at risk of abuse negatively impacts children in different ways, such as making them less engaged in school, being in a state of fear, instability, uncertainty, and insecurity, limited connection with family, drug users, child labor, lack of medical services, poor hygiene, malnourishment, and hostility from other members of the society.

Academic sources focused on the identity of street children as humans, even when they are neglected, abandoned, victimized, and their human rights are abused. According to Berman (2000, p. 152) and Drybread (2013, p. 214), street children just like other individuals are identified based on the continuity of time, space and location, as well as how they act and interact with others. Drybread (2013, p. 217) asserts that street children desire to be treated humanely even after death just like other people who are of a higher social class.

Evidence Used by the Different Sources

Media and popular culture relied on first hand observations and direct personal accounts of individuals who have experienced, observed, or social workers working with organizations that seek to combat the problem of street children. Jern (2017) has been travelling to Kenya for over 20 years and she has personally observed and documented through photography the rapid rise in the number of street children in a local town called Kitale. IRIN (2006) interviewed street children, social workers, government officials, and records maintained by NGOs that are fighting the problem of street children.

Reports for organizations used secondary data as evidence. Homelessness Australia (2016) refers to evidence provided in previous research on the topic of homelessness to explain the causes and impacts of homelessness on children. UNODC (p. 8) gathered secondary data and statistics from the General Social Defense Department in Egypt and the research team engaged NGOs in site-visits, discussions and seminars on the issue of street children.

Academic sources use first hand evidence that is obtained through interactions with street children and giving these children an opportunity to share their life stories, views, and dreams. Drybread (2013, p. 218) interacts with street children in Brazil and obtains evidence on their way of life, neglect by society, and desire to be appreciated as human beings despite their circumstances. Berman (2000, p.152) interacts with street children and creates personal trust which allows the street children to provide him with evidence that is based on their personal experiences.

How the Different Sources Present their Arguments

Media and popular culture present their arguments in an evidence based manner backed with either photographs or personal accounts of street children and social workers. They go in depth to show how the society and the government have neglected street children and the rapid increase in the number of street children. Jern (2017) uses photographs to present and explain the situation while IRIN (2007) relies on personal accounts of different parties to construct an argument.

Reports for organizations present their arguments in a case based manner whereby they first address the causes of the problem, then cover the impact of the problem on children, and lastly try to come up with policy recommendations aimed at resolving the problem of street children. UN ODCCP (p. 17) and Homelessness Australia (2016) first interrogates the various factors that contribute to homelessness and the problem of street children, such as family feuds, poverty, neglect, child abuse, and economic crisis. Secondly, they explain the challenges and risks these children encounter as a result of their situation such as child labor, violence, drug abuse, insecurity, malnutrition, and poor health care. UN ODCCP (p. 176) further seeks to establish a policy solution to the problem of street children.

Academic resources present their arguments in an analytical and comparative approach whereby they subject the personal account and experiences of street children to historical and traditional practices. Drybread (2013, p. 217) analyses the inhumane disposal of Prea’s body by comparing it to the burial of slaves, criminals, paupers, and unchristened Africans during the periods before the 18th-century. Berman (2000, p.153) presents arguments in a comparative manner whereby he contrasts the mainstream world and how street children are excluded from mainstream society.

Do the Different Sources Use Particular Theories?

Media and popular culture do not use any specific theory as they only present a simple explanation of the problem of street children and the nature of their daily activities and challenges. Reports of organisations apply the street child theory and subculture theory. UNODC (p.13) uses street child theory in their analysis of the profile of street children in Cairo and Alexandria. UN ODCCP (p.20) uses subculture theory to explain the daily activities of street children in Cairo and Alexandria since they teach one another how to survive, earn a living, and embrace challenges. Academic sources use subculture theory to explain the daily routines of street children. Berman (2000, p.150) appreciates the subculture of the street children as a viable solution to the problems and misunderstandings associated with living in the streets.

What Position do the Different Sources Take on the Topic?

Media and popular culture mainly point out the need for the society and governments take a proactive role in combating the problem of street children. Jern (2017) writes on how the society neglects them, how police raids result in deaths, and she asks the question: “who will take care of you?” IRIN (2007) mainly focuses on the role NGOs in combating the street children problem in Lebanon and the need for increased government support since the NGOs are limited financially as they mainly rely on donations.

Report of organisations mainly seek to resolve the problem of homelessness and street children by first interrogating the causes and impacts of these two problems and then seeking to arrive at recommendations and policies that can be useful in resolving the street children problem. UN ODCCP (p.46) recommends the need for a combination of government agencies, non-government organizations, and voluntary efforts in dealing with the phenomenon of street children since NGOs cannot reach all areas. According to UN ODCCP (p. 51) this will require a comprehensive approach that covers these four levels of intervention: street-based intervention; community based intervention; structural-based intervention; center-based intervention.

Academic sources, mainly call for street children to be given their human rights such as freedom of communication and humane treatment. According to Berman (2000, p.172) street children should be given an opportunity to tell their personal stories without limitations so that their development and way of life can be understood better; this will facilitate the development of achievable and effective measures to the problem of street children. Drybread (2013, p. 228) burial for street children is a symbol of affirming humanity and social life for these kids as it gives them a sense of meaning and worthiness.

Key Differences Between the Sources

Media and popular culture sources, mainly focused on narrating the life of street children from an observer’s point of view with very little account of the opinions of the street children. Report of organizations did not have any contact with street children and mainly relied on the accounts of government agencies and NGOs, as well as the findings of previous studies to analyze the topic of street children. Academic sources were very comprehensive in their approach on the topic as they directly interacted with the street children to obtain all necessary information on the experiences of these street children hence making their approach more fruitful.


The three sources were informative on the problem of street children across the world. However, the academic sources were most useful for understanding the topic. This is because the academic sources presented a more detailed account of the daily experiences of the street children who were featured in each source. The academic sources indulged in the universe of a street child in a manner that allows readers to picture themselves in the shoes of a street child living in such challenging circumstances.


Berman, L. (2000). ‘Surviving on the Streets of Java: Homeless Children’s Narratives of Violence’, Discourse and Society, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 149–174. Pdf

Drybread, K. (2013). ‘Social Life and the Deaths of Brazilian Street Children’, The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 212-230.

Homelessness Australia. (2016). Homelessness and Children.

IRIN. (2006). Street children – victims of organised crime. [online] Available at:

Jern, S. (2017). Photo Essay: The Homeless Children on the Streets of Kitale, Kenya, 22 April.

UN ODCCP. Rapid Situation Assessment (RSA) of street children in Cairo and Alexandria.