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Street child

Street children in India
A street child in India is someone "for whom the street (in the widest sense of the word, including unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, etc.) has become his or her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood; and who is inadequately protected, supervised, or directed by responsible adults”.

It is estimated that more than 400,000 street children in India exist. Mainly because of family conflict, they come to live on the streets and take on the full responsibilities of caring for themselves, including working to provide for and protecting themselves. Though street children do sometimes band together for greater security, they are often exploited by employers and the police.

Their many vulnerabilities require specific legislation and attention from the government and other organisations to improve their condition.

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Definition clarification

In the early years of research on street children, the term “street child” included any child that worked on the street. From research, however, different categories of children on the streets have been distinguished, while still recognizing that children’s complex experiences are difficult to define. Mark W. Lusk, a prominent researcher of street children, developed four categories of children on the street from his research: children who work on the street but return to their families at night, children who work on the street but whose family ties are dwindling, children who live and work with their families on the street, and children who work and live on their own on the street.

The term “street child” has come to refer only to the last group. UNICEF defines a street child as, “...any girl or boy... for whom the street (in the widest sense of the word, including unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, etc.) has become his or her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood; and who is inadequately protected, supervised, or directed by responsible adults”. It is important to distinguish the group of children that live on their own on the streets because their lives vary greatly from those of children who simply work on the streets; they thus have different needs and require targeted attention.

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