Miles away from home: where do street children come from?

Retrak aims to successfully return children to safe homes in families and communities, where each child feels a sense of belonging through a secure attachment to caring adults. The majority of the children whom we help move away from street life are able to be reintegrated into their biological families. Over the past five years, Retrak enabled almost 2,200 children to return to their families, provided training and support to over 3,000 care-givers benefitting an additional 5,000 children in their care.

Each year we map the locations of these reintegration placements and track trends in locations over time. We have used this information to help us understand the geographic spread of children coming to the streets and to then target prevention programmes on “hotspots” – locations from which many children migrate to the streets.

Retrak Ethiopia is 3 years into a prevention of family separation project in Hossana, the first of these hotspots to be identified. The mid-term review of this project revealed that many children had already returned to the care of their families and that parents’ ability to care and provide for their children was increasing.

This year we have also compared the findings from our maps with national statistics on population size, distance and wealth. This makes it very clear that poverty is not the only driving factor pushing children to the streets. It appears that proximity to urban areas is a bigger push factor, and that children further away are likely to be vulnerable to other forms of separation such as cross-border trafficking.

Retrak will continue to use this kind of information from our reintegration programmes and beyond to ensure that our services, research and advocacy are well informed and continuously responding to the needs of vulnerable children.