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Street Children: statistics is prettier than reality

October 20, 2011, 11:55 3667 Author: Olga Ivanenko, translated by Grytsenko Yuliya korrespondent.net They sort of do not exist, but they do

Some time ago my foreign colleague and I were in Odessa where, besides everything else, we were collecting material for the article about street children. Six years ago, when we worked on the similar story, the number of such kids was much higher. At that time, one summer day, we drove through the city with social workers and in every basement and abandoned house we were met by a group of kids.

Nowadays there are fewer children on the streets and they are much harder to find even with the help of social workers who regularly work with them and know these kids very well. Unfortunately, the decrease in number of street children can’t be contributed to the fact that the living conditions in Odessa improved dramatically or all of them became “home” kids.

In pursuit of positive statistics the raids on street children and “cleaning” of their places of residence became more frequent, forcing kids to change their places of habitat more often. Most of the places where they used to live were closed, walled up or sealed. Representatives of public organizations who help street children say that many of the older ones were simply put behind bars and social workers can barely keep pace with bringing parcels to them. The younger ones are placed into orphanages on a regular basis but each time they run away anyway.

There must be something wrong with this picture! Officially and statistically most of the kids were removed from the streets but in reality the problem still remains. The majority of street children have at least one living parent who either suffers from alcohol and/or drug addiction or who is extremely poor. Sometimes kids run away from home due to abuse and pressure they endure from their birth parent’s new “second halves”. There are a lot of stories and each child has his/her own – both unique and horrific.

The good news is that Odessa has large number of public organizations that work hard to help such kids. They provide psychological and medical assistance, open and maintain social centers with shelters and hostels where children can take a shower, eat and sleep or, if they want, live there for longer periods of time and attend regular schools and colleges. Some kids grew up on the street and in 5-7 years of such life become “rooted” to it. However, there are a lot of kids who are eager to live in normal conditions but end up on the streets just because their own family can’t offer such and having a prior experience of life in the orphanage they are terrified of going back there.

Of course, many of those whom we met six years ago are long gone. But damn, it’s such a pleasure to see those who in the past six years managed to “get out” and started a new life – quit drugs (street children are introduced to them pretty early), received medical help, got a profession and found a job, formed a family of their own, were able to seize back their property from greedy relatives, etc. They succeeded for two reasons - they really wanted it and, most importantly, they were able to get help and support from people who care.

These kids are not to blame for being born in the “wrong” family. They are children and they deserve to have at least some of the opportunities that are available for their piers from happy, functional families – go to school, play soccer, dance, learn music, go to college or university….

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