In recognition of the International Day for Street children, April 12th, CIESPI at PUC Rio announces a study to be launched in April intitled "A profile of children and adolescents in the situation of the streets and in institutional care in Brazil".
The data described in the research report are part of a study called To Know is to Care, a partnership between the Beneficent Association of the Young Nazarene (OPN), a practice and policy nonprofit organization working in the northeast of Brazil to assist homeless youth return to family and community, and CIESPI at PUC-Rio. CIESPI has a long history of action research on young street populations.
The study includes a survey of youth on the streets and in institution care in the seventeen Brazilian cities with populations in excess of one million inhabitants. Data was collected from youth on the streets at different times during the day and from young people with a street history in institutions. In total, 554 young people between the ages of 7 and 18 were interviewed: 30% of them were interviewed on the streets and 70% in institutions; 75% were young men; 85% of those in institutions were black or brown as were 89% of those in institutional care; 42% of those on the streets were not attending school while 72% of the same group said they were working in some fashion.
One key question about street youth is how they ended up there. Among the most frequent answers to this question were being subjected to exploitation at work, in the drug trade, or through begging, seeking freedom or something different, family problems and being neglected at home. The youth on the streets had varied relationships with their families and 32% of this group returned home to sleep after a day on the streets. About twice as many of the latter group maintained daily contact with their families whereas only 12% of those institutional care maintained such links. Nonetheless, 42% of those in institutional care said they maintained good relations with their parents. A large minority of those living on the streets had suffered physical violence as had a majority of those living in institutions. For youth on the streets, the police were the main instigators of violence while for young people in institutions it was family or responsible adults who inflicted the violence.
There were a variety of responses to the question what would improve their lives and these included a decent job, a home for their families, and returning to school.
The project also collected and reported data from social service workers and social educators in and outside the institutions.
The report concludes by saying that the young people on the streets are in need of basic supports such as health care, education and food and those in institutions need to be much better prepared for leaving the institutions and for being reintegrated with their families and communities.