Audit of programmes for children in child and youth care centres: final report
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As the basic unit of society the family has the care and socialisation of children as one of its key and critical functions. Over the years, however, socioeconomic changes such as migration, unemployment, poverty, hunger, family violence, union instability and/or dissolution; and the breakdown of traditional supportive community and family structures have continued to make it difficult for parents to provide the attention and affection that their children require to develop and thrive. In consequence, as many homes become less effective in providing for children's wellbeing, some of children as a perceived coping strategy take to the streets where they become either children of the streets or children on the streets. The latter are 'home-based' children who spend much of the day on the streets but have some family support and usually return home at night. Children of the streets, on the other hand have the streets as their main living place. In South Africa these children are collectively referred to as 'children living and working on the streets'.
Regardless of definition, children living and working on the streets are among the most deprived and marginalised groups in most societies in that they do not have what society considers appropriate relationships with major institutions of childhood such as family, education and health. Their transitory life style continuously exposes them to harsh environments and makes them vulnerable to substance use (including alcohol and other psychoactive substances) which threatens their mental, social and spiritual wellbeing. The children have also been noted to have inadequate nutrition, and various health problems including sexual and reproductive health problems.
Children living and working on the streets therefore have particular psychosocial, emotional and economic needs that require unique interventions that are distinct from other children in need of care. In South Africa, Section 191 of the Children's Act (S191) provides for the establishment of Child and Youth Care Centres (CYCCs) which are facilities used to provide welfare services for children found by the children's court as in need of care and protection, such as children living and working on the streets.