Psychology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version

January 1997


Published in International Social Work 40 (1997), pp. 89–100. Copyright © 1997 SAGE Publications, London, Thousand Oaks, CA, and New Delhi. Used by permission.


One of the greatest social welfare challenges confronting Latin American nations is the growing number of children and adolescents seeking their survival on city streets. The presence of these apparently abandoned youngsters is not new (see Felsman, 1989; Peralta, 1992), but the number of street youths has been increasing steadily in recent years (Connolly, 1994; Durning, 1992). Although the exact numbers are disputed, most experts agree that millions of children and adolescents work and sometimes live on city streets in the developing countries of Latin America (UNICEF, 1989). In the face of what at times appears to be an insurmountable problem, a number of governmental and non-governmental programs have been developed, ranging from institutionalization to street education (Lusk, 1989). However, program development is hindered by a lack of systematic information about street children and their families of origin, and by definitional confusion over who these children are.