The world population of street or community children stands at 150 million and is rising each year. Of these about 40% (65 million) are homeless and familyless whilst the balance works on the streets helping to support their families. They do not attend school, are at risk from the street enviroment and have poor adult prospects, locked as they are into a cycle of poverty.
Increasingly, these children are the defenseless victims of brutal violence, sexual exploitation, abject neglect, chemical addiction, and human rights violations.
Street children is a term used to refer to children who live on the streets. They are deprived of family care and protection. Most children on the streets are between the ages of 10 and 14 years old, and their populace between different cities is varied. Street children, or "street urchins", are, in particular, those that are not taken care of by parents or other protective guardians. Street children live in abandoned buildings, containers, automobiles, parks, or on the street itself. A great deal has been written defining street children, but the primary difficulty is that there are no precise categories, but rather a continuum, ranging from children who spend some time in the streets and sleep in a house with ill-prepared adults, to those who live entirely in the streets and have no adult supervision or care.
A widely accepted set of definitions, commonly attributed to UNICEF, defines street children into two main categories:
- Children on the street are those engaged in some kind of economic activity ranging from begging to vending. Most go home at the end of the day and contribute their earnings to their family. They may be attending school and retain a sense of belonging to a family. Because of the economic fragility of the family, these children may eventually opt for a permanent life on the streets.
- Children of the street actually live on the street (or outside of a normal family environment). Family ties may exist but are tenuous and are maintained only casually or occasionally.
Street children exist in many major cities, especially in developing countries, and may be the subject of abuse, neglect, exploitation, or even in extreme cases murder by "clean up squads" hired by local businesses.