The normal place for a child to live is with his family where he is loved and cared for yet there are many children who are denied this opportunity all over the world and live on the streets. Some have lost their parents in conflict or due to AIDS as in Africa; others have escaped domestic violence, abuse, drugs and alcohol as in the Western world. These children are denied all the basic rights which their peers enjoy, and if nothing is done to help them, they will constitute a lost generation and be of no use to anyone. A welfare state can take various measures to help the street children.
First and foremost, these children need to be provided with basic shelter where they can be cared for, fed and clothed. More shelters of this sort should be provided by the state and charity organizations. In the past there have been cases of abuse or mistreatment in these places so appropriate checks and measures should be put in place as well. These institutions should also encourage foster families to take on children so that they can be given a taste of the family life they have been denied. All this requires careful organization and cooperation so a special department should be set up to deal with the issue. In short where there is a will there is a way.
Second of all, it must be remembered that most of these children have been seriously traumatized: they have witnessed bloodshed, murder, torture and the like; they have been victims of abuse; they have been raped and much more besides. Just giving them a bath, a warm bed and hot food is not going to do the trick; their spirits also need to be healed. Therefore, regular counselors should be appointed to the shelters in adequate numbers and children should have long term access to them. These children need to work through the trauma they have suffered to be able to move on with their lives. In short psychological help is just as important as physical care.
Thirdly, these children need to be assured that they will not be turned out on the street at 16 and will be educated and trained. Children are not plants; they need to go to school to develop their minds and their cognitive skills. They need to broaden their horizons and discover their talents and proclivities. Having done so, they should be provided with the opportunity to pursue them by going to university or getting training for a job. Only when all this has been done, can we really claim that the street child has been helped.
To sum up, helping the street children is a costly, difficult and long term project. Any effort to provide long term help for street children requires dedication and perseverance but the reward will be worth it: nothing could be more rewarding than seeing a child who was pulled off the street graduating from university and making his way in the world.